I first heard Julien Lourau on Abbey Lincoln's Who Used to Dance. He played this tenor pocket solo a la Coltrane that immediately connected me not to his roots, but to his possibilities as a saxophonist. He was about to achieve a voice of his own. Thereafter I found him on Henri Texier's Mad Nomad(s). Texier called his septet Sonjal, meaning "to think, to imagine, to muse, to dream," in Breton. So Lourau seemed a young promise of French jazz. Then I listened to Lourau's work as a member of the Bojan Zulfikarpasic Quartet. What a joyful music they rendered, a kind of dynamic fusion of jazz and Eastern Europe popular tradition. Lourau nurtured his definite style, so to speak, with the latter experience.
And I arrived to his 2002 release The Rise. Lourau wished it to be "soft and full of hopes." Well, he made it. This is open music that makes the listener happy. It flows smoothly as its gamut of rhythms unfolds. Eastern Europe, Africa, and Latin America merge in order to construct waving tunes that gently draw a smile. The percussion base of Ovalles and Garay is a key factor for such a mission, though we cannot ignore certain influence of Bojan Z, who plays very personal solos on the date, as well as the other pianist Di Giusto, who does the same. The Master Texier's contribution on "The Saloon" is superb. This tune is great as a song to open the record. It grooves, showing a guttural Lourau along with a cascading Zulfikarpasic.
The Rise also offers a couple of boleros: "Tu Mi Turbi," composed by Lourau, and "Contigo en la Distancia," written by the Cuban composer Cesar Portillo de la Luz. On the first tune, Lourau swings smoothly, letting the cadence of Ovalles' percussive drops seduce our yearning hearts. On the second track, the crystal voice of Elvita Delgado elaborates an angled version of this classic from the Latin America Vital Songbook. Worthy of mention are the Getzian outings of Lourau.
The title track is a Lourau original, like most of the tunes on this CD. It is reminscent of Coltrane's "Equinox," though it has no obvious relationship. On this one, Lourau, Zulfikarpasic, Texier and the current Jean Michel Pilc's drummer, Ari Hoenig, trace a journey straight to hope. "El Gato Porteno" signals a homage to the Argentinean saxophonist El Gato Barbieri. It's an up-tempo tune with a gorgeous tenor, a lot of cymbals, and a bowed bass, with a occasional rock-like bridge.
The Rise can carry the listener to the surface of aesthetic well being. It's a balanced spectrum of moods and rhythms; it's a 21st century acoustic jazz expression. Lourau should be glad, for through the tribute to the gentleness of his father, he brings music with undeniable softness, hope, and honest mastery.
Track Listing: The saloon (life is just a game); Ginger bread; Bulkamer; Anda, jaleo; Tu
mi turbi (intro); Tu mi turbi; Kenyatta; The rise; El gato porteno; Contigo en
la distancia; Hulio's blues.
Personnel: Julien Lourau, saxophones; Bojan Zulfikarpasic, piano; Henri Texier,
doublebass; Fred Chiffoleau, doublebass; Maxime Zampieri, drums;
Minino Garay, drums + percussion; Carlos Buschini, baby bass; Gerardo
Ovalles, congas, bata drums, percussion; Elvita Delgado, vocal; Krassen
Lutzkanov, kaval; Malik Mezzadri, flute.