Trust drummer Daniel Humair, who has had more musical lives than the proverbial cat, to continue to reinvent himself by surrounding himself with a group of young players who are equally at home with both composed and free styles of music. Baby Boom unites Humair with saxophonists Matthieu Donarier and Christophe Monniot, bassist Sebastien Boisseau and guitarist Manu Codjia—all players who have only emerged on the scene in the past couple of years. But what they lack in years of experience they make up for in exploratory verve mixed with periods of raw energy and crystalline delicacy.
Humair, of course, is well capable of crossing many musical boundaries, and he has ample opportunity here. From the improvisational tone poem “Drama Drome” to the unbridled swing of “Saveur Exquise,” Humair displays, for someone who is in his fifth decade of performing, an openness and constant desire to evolve that continues to deliver here on the promise of 2001’s Liberté Surveillée. “Bois Darbre” finds Humair experimenting with more extended form, a piece that uses elliptical themes to segue between free exchanges with first Boisseau and then Donarier; in both cases Humair is in the supporting role, demonstrating a strong telepathic sensibility.
While all the young players demonstrate a maturity beyond their years, special mention should be made of Codjia, last heard on French trumpeter Erik Truffaz’s fusion-meets-world affair, Mantis. Codjia combines the rich tone and harmonics of Bill Frisell with the legato phrasing of Allan Holdsworth and the more outward-reaching approach of Marc Ducret. While his influences may be worn a little too obviously on his sleeve at the moment, he clearly has ideas that would indicate he is someone to watch. His playing is confident, and he exhibits an eloquent ability to support the others in ways that are sometimes urgent, other times more subtle.
While the melodies are oblique and the rhythms rarely fall into a strong groove, there is still a sense of melodicism in the playing, and a pulse that somehow manages to carry through even though Humair rarely settles into any pattern for long. What makes this exciting is the way Humair and Boisseau seem to effortlessly shift gears on a moment’s notice, with no apparent warning; things somehow manage to feel cohesive rhythmically even though the approach is loose and fluid.
With Baby Boom , Daniel Humair continues to demonstrate the intelligence and grace that has been a trademark throughout most of his career; but after backing more traditional artists including Phil Woods, Stephane Grapelli and Chet Baker, Humair is stepping more and more into Creative Music territory, combining a strong sense of composition with improvisational exploration, putting him in the company of the best of European jazz.
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