Twins, bassist Francois and drummer Louis Moutin have been playing together since they first picked up their respective instruments at age five. As one can imagine, over the years these two extraordinary musicians have formed a musical bond of the deepest level. The fruition of their musical relationship, however, seems to have come after several years of separation.
Before forming their present group The Moutin Reunion Quartet, Francois departed his native France to explore the New York scene, while brother Louis remained in Paris. The time apart, as Francois himself explains, now allows each to bring to the table not only their years of symbiotic growth, but also the honed skills and depths of their individual experiences. Exhibiting this newfound level of expressiveness at Washington, D.C.'s Blues Alley, the Moutin brothers, with the support of pianist Baptiste Trotignon and saxophonist Rick Margitza, recently put on an outstanding display of creativity and showmanship.
At his best when improvising freely, Francois started the evening's first tune, "Red Moon", with a furious bass solo covering the full range of the instrument. Playing for the sheer joy of discovery, Francois traced seemingly endless interlocking paths through the music, expanding into ever greater intricacy without once loosing his firm grip on the groove. By the time Louis joined him with a crackling drum pattern, the audience was already smiling, infected by Francois's rapid fire inventiveness and wide grin. Margitza and Trotignon fleshed out the piece with solos of their own, Margitza contributing a sold, if somewhat predictable, bop-styled solo over the evolving interplay between Louis and Francois.
Gaining firmer footing during the night's second tune, "New York Silly", another post-bop original, Margitza seemed to find his groove, adding a deeper edge to his tone that more aptly matched the intensity surrounding him. At the heart of the piece, however, lay Francois and Louis's fiery exuberance and preternatural ability to seamlessly follow each other in any direction. Ending the song with an extended, tom-centered solo by Louis, the band transitioned to a slow ballad titled "Echoing" and hit its peak. Using gentle brush work to support Margitza's thoughtful explorations, Louis draped the composition in a soft-focus feel of old photographs that perfectly matched the rain-swept, back-alley impressionism of Trotignon and Francois's own statements. Somehow evoking the patina of old-world cities and the allure of drowning memories, all four musicians came together on this piece to produce the night's most accomplished moment as a group.
Dropping out for the next piece, Trotignon and Margitza left Francois and Louis to perform a devilishly impressive duet improvisation. Playing without sticks, Louis employed palms, fingers, and nails to pull a multi-textural, highly organic sound from his set, while Francois began an extended solo. Interacting with child-like glee, the two proceeded to challenge each other, raising the ante with each set of trading as the two engaged in an onstage, sibling rivalry-fueled game of musical thrust and parry. Astonishing for its sheer free-form ingenuity and energy, the piece as a whole underscored again the twins' remarkable capacity as players and entertainers.
After a second ballad, the band closed the evening with another new composition by Louis entitled "Something Like New". Performed for the first time that night, the group took the relatively standard tune and built it into a final sparkling crescendo that finished the evening with force. Particularly noticeable was Trotignon's asymmetric solo, which may have been his best of the night.
Dedicated, thoroughly genuine musicians, the Moutin brothers are rapidly becoming a bi-continental force to be reckoned with. While some of the evening's selections lacked for compositional force, feeling at times more like springboards for the Moutin brothers' otherworldly improvisations than fully-realized endeavors, pieces like "Echoing" revealed the Moutin Reunion Quartet's capacity to produce moving, highly individual pieces that require the full band's cooperation to bring to life. It is those times that marked the full potential of the band, and surely what will be encountered on their upcoming third album and witnessed on the road as the group continues to tour.
Visit the Moutin Brothers on the web at www.moutin.com .
Moutin Reunion Quartet: Red Moon (Sunnyside, 2004) 1 | 2
Moutin Reunion Quartet: Power Tree (Dreyfus, 2002) 1 | 2