Plenty has already been written about François and Louis Moutin, co-leaders of the Moutin Reunion Quartet, and the special simpatico they share as twin brothers. Over the course of three albums, including Something Like Now
(Nocturne, 2005), the bassist and drummer have evolved a contemporary approach that, despite being largely acoustic, borrows as muchphilosophically if not sonicallyfrom fusion groups like Weather Report as it does classic influences like John Coltrane and Charlie Parker. MRQ is also a powerhouse live group, making the dual-sided Sharp Turns
one side a CD of new material, the other a concert DVD featuring songs from Something Like Now
a strong addition to the catalog for those familiar with the group, and the ideal entry point for newcomers.
Sharp Turns is an evolutionary rather than revolutionary disc, and the second to feature tenor saxophonist Rick Margitza and pianist Pierre de Bethemann. There's plenty of muscular playing to go around, with Margitza standing out only because, with the tragic passing of saxophonists Michael Brecker and Bob Berg in recent years, the Paris-based American ex-pat is clearly carrying their torch with a robust tone and seemingly endless flow of ideas. The saxophonist moves effortlessly from the soulful power of his solo on François' viscerally grooving "A Good Move" to a spare but all-the-more-impressive-for-it a capella spot on the bassist's elegant ballad, "Time Apart," running the gamut from soft multiphonics to near-classical arpeggios. When considering contemporary tenor saxophonists making a difference, Margitza's name clearly deserves to be considered in the same breath as Chris Potter and Donny McCaslin.
Bethmann's an equally versatile player, his hauntingly beautiful intro to "Time Apart" in sharp contrast to Louis' upbeat and irregularly metered "Kuki's Dance," where his confident solo on acoustic piano is underscored by his wah-wah'd Fender Rhodes. The bassist's even more rhythmically idiosyncratic and thematically knotty "Two Hits on the N.J.T.P." demonstrates Bethmann's empathic accompaniment skills, as the entire group approaches fusion territory during Bethmann's high energy, Chick Corea-informed Rhodes solo at the song's frenetically swinging end.
The Moutin brothers solo with equal aplomb throughout, but are even more essential as almost literally joined-at-the-hip rhythm section partners, driving Louis' more relaxed but no less insistent "A Blue Dream" and François' aptly named modal title track with a rare combination of undeniable personality and selfless team play. As in live performance, the brothers go it alone on "Trane's Medley," a clever combination of Coltrane themes and intuitive interaction that's even better than Something Like Now's "Bird's Medley."
The DVD, from a 2007 Chicago show---also featuring excerpts of a band interview by Chicago Reader's Niel Tessermakes it clear that, as hot as MRQ's studio recordings are, the energy is pushed even further in performance. Together, the CD and DVD of Sharp Turns find the Moutin Reunion Quartet at the top of its game, a group where everyone stands out without ever sacrificing its all-important group sound.
Personnel: François Moutin: upright acoustic bass, composition; Louis Moutin: drums, composition; Rick Margitza: tenor saxophone (CD#1, CD#2, CD#4-8, DVD#1, DVD#2, DVD#4, DVD#5); Pierre de Bethmann: piano (CD#1, CD#2, CD#4-8, DVD#1, DVD#2, DVD#4, DVD#5); Fender Rhodes (CD#1, CD#2, CD#4, CD#6, DVD#1, DVD#2, DVD#4, DVD#5); vocals (CD#1).