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Pierrick Pedron: Cheerleaders

Bruce Lindsay By

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Pierrick Pédron grew up in 1980s France listening to Neil Young and the super groups of rock, as well as to saxophone greats such as Charlie Parker and Cannonball Adderley. This combination of early influences can be clearly heard on the French alto saxophonist's third solo album, the fascinating and occasionally enigmatic Cheerleaders.

A combination of brass bands, King Crimson, bebop and a touch of Pink Floyd, all centered on Pédron's tight yet lyrical alto sound. It's an intriguing package, and to top it off, it's a concept album—one night in the life of a cheerleader. It seems to have been an action-packed evening, as the music moves between light, romantic, ballads and heavy, threatening blasts of sound. Just what sports team does this cheerleader cheer for?

The brass band, used to superb effect on "The Cloud" and "2010 White Boots," gives the music an atmosphere that evokes both The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (EMI, 1967) and the sound of a million street parades. "Miss Falk's Dog" is a Henry Mancini tune from TV's Columbo, reworked by Pédron and pianist Laurent Coq. Not the obvious candidate for a King Crimson reference, but Chris De Pauw's strident guitar riff and Pédron's own sinewy alto lines trigger memories of the interplay between guitarist Robert Fripp and saxophonist Mel Collins in that band's early-'70s incarnation.

Pédron also excels at more reflective and considered tunes such as De Pauw's gentle "The Mists Of Time." Pédron's funky, post-bop, "Nonagon's Dance" is the album's most insistent tune, with an irresistible groove, but it's run a close second by "Coupe 3" which flits between smooth, mellow, alto sax, upbeat dance rhythms and more of De Pauw's sparky electric guitar. Coq's "Toshiko" closes the album, its air of quiet, sensitive, calm bringing the cheerleader's eventful night to a relaxing end.

Pédron's 2007 Deep In A Dream (Nocturne), won plenty of critical plaudits. Recorded in New York with a quartet including pianist Mulgrew Miller, the album was described in Jeff Dayton-Johnson's All About Jazz review as having the vibe of "a late-1950s not-too-hard bop session." Cheerleaders further enhances the saxophonist's reputation, moving things into stranger, but more original and ultimately more rewarding, musical territory.

Track Listing: Esox-Lucius; The Cloud; Miss Falk's Dog; The Mists Of Time; Nonagon's Dance; 2010 White Boots; The Cheerleader's NDE; Coupe 3; Toshiko.

Personnel: Pierrick Pédron: alto saxophone; Chris De Pauw: guitar; Laurent Coq: piano, Fender Rhodes, keyboards; Vincent Artaud: bass; Franck Agulhon: drums; Fabrice Moreau: drums; Camille de Bruyne: vocals; Monique Harcum: vocals; Nina Babet: vocals; marie Ange Teuwen: vocals; Nathalie Paques: vocals; Brass Band--Sylvaine Leroux: flute; Eric du Fay: horns; Etienne Godet: horns; Mathilde Fèvre: horns; Nicolas Dromer: horns; Guy Evra: horns; Lionel Segui: trombone; Christophe Gonnet: trombone; Bastien Still: tuba; Raphael Goutière: helicon; Thierry Gervais: trumpet; Patrick Areto: trumpet; Nicolas Gardel: trumpet; Jean Francois Durez: percussion; Nathalie Gantiez: percussion; Gaspa: percussion; Ludovic Bource: Farfisa organ (1); Elise Caron: vocals (1).

Title: Cheerleaders | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: ACT Music

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