French Canadian alto saxophonist Francois Carrier has made a career out of being unpredictable. All' Alba, his latest CD, is yet another pleasant surprise. The surprise here, however, is not Carrier's melodic inventiveness, nor is it bassist Pierre Cote and drummer Michel Lambert's highly sympathetic vibrations. In this case, the surprise is the welcome addition of adventurous pianist Uri Caine to Carrier's usual lineup.
Carrier's alto is rough and sinewy, as always. His sheer brawn as a soloist belies the alto's lighter sound (it's interesting to compare Carrier to someone like Paul Desmond, in whose hands the alto sounds like a completely different instrument). Cote's sound is fat and round, resonating with Carrier's sandpaper tone. Lambert, as always, is exceptional on drums.
But it is American citizen Caine who is the real show here. He doesn't just support Carrier, he engages him. To listen to the two of them circle one another on tracks like "Lekh Leka" and "Karuna" is incredible. In Caine, Carrier has surely met his match. But, as Duke Ellington once noted of his Stride heroes, these two musicians respect one another too much to draw blood. This is a knock-down, drag-out musical melee in which everybody wins, especially the listener.
1. Karuna (8:58); 2. Entrance 3 (6:06); 3. Lekh Leka (8:13); 4. Enfants du Ciel (9:16); 5. L'
Etange (11:45); 6. Don't Mind (8:47); 7. Jeu (4:08); 8. As Crazy As (5:54); 9. All' Alba (9:10).
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