Alula: Anemokory (2007)
Saxophonists Christophe Lehoucq and Philippe Razol formed Alula in 1998 to play compositions by the former; after nearly ten years of toil, Anémokory is their début release.
Alula plays well-behaved latter-day fusion, the sound decidedly, but not unpleasantly, seventies retro. (Witness the jangly guitar on "Les 7 marches" or some of the synthesizer washes in the background throughout.) Most of the compositions on Anémokory are memorable in the best tradition of the genre.
The band really swings on "Idouma," buttressed by additional, idiomatic percussion and Ahmet Male's fine singing: this is top-drawer African-jazz fusion. Mate's singing and the added African percussion also grace the suitably ethereal "Vénus septentrionale," dedicated to Jan Garbarek. The cool friendliness, as well as the sustained and slightly acrid tone of the Norwegian saxophonist's playing, in fact, are clearly components of Alula's sound as well.
The arrangements of the dual saxophone parts are unfailingly good, sometimes quite sophisticated and elegant (as in the introduction to "Petite étoile souterraine"). The execution can, however, be a trifle buttoned-down at times. The horn figures on "Ni 3625 ni bebop," for example, are stiff where they should be freewheeling James Brown-style funk. Lehoucq's C-melody sax solo on this piece is, nevertheless, nicely impassioned.
The slower tempo numbers work better, such as the aforementioned "Vénus septentrionale": the mysterious two-chord vamp on "Petite étoile souterraine," highlighted by guitarist Pascal Dalmasso's low-treble solo, and the dreamy "Promenade dans la canopée," with its keening horn lines, Lehoucq sounding even more like Garbarek here.
Track Listing: Yves à fleur de peau; Les 7 marches; Idouma; Pieds nus sur la terre sacrée; Petite étoile souterraine; Vénus septentrionale; Ni 3615 ni bebop; Promenade dans la canopée.
Personnel: Christophe Lehoucq: alto and C-melody saxophones, guimbarde; Philippe Razol: soprano saxophone, synthesizer; Pascal Dalmasso: guitars; Fabricio Nicolas: bass; Clément Barbaza: drums, percussion; Ahmet Male: vocals (3, 5, 6); Christian Magret: percussion (2, 3, 6); Marc Laverty: guitars (2, 3).
Record Label: Aphrodite Records