Mulo Francel clearly believes in life imitating art. The endlessly versatile saxophonist is happy to demonstrate here how music reflects the wider world, but more importantly, Crossing Life Lines offers a determined reminder of how it can go both ways. The concept is simple yet expansive: while touring through parts of Europe that had been in conflict during the second World War, and aware of the ways different powers still try to turn nations against each other 75 years after its end, he decided that unity among all these peoples would be the theme of this recording.
The musical threads show the same beautiful diversity as the multicultural cast: from Polish and German to Jewish and Christian, it's a celebration where all backgrounds and styles are welcome. The pieces themselves make a storybook full of the players' own family histories. In the lovely "Ada's Song," the leader paints a happy portrait of his grandmother with cheery vibraphone and cheerier guitar. Bassist Sven Faller likewise contributes a tribute to his grandfather with "The Rabbi from Namysłów," its Polish mode serving to illustrate the subject's ocean-spanning life story. Elsewhere Francel joyously romps in tricky circles with David Gazarov's piano through "Schaschlik," a dance piece rooted in the style of the pianist's home in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Through it all the mood is one of celebration. "Wiosna," meaning "spring," is another cast original (this time from percussionist Izabella Effenberg) whose sunny daydream splendidly lives up to its name. "Look for the Silver Lining" charms as always, here with a dressing of light reggae and timbales, just as much as the sensual gypsy dance of "Sám s děvčetem v dešti" charmed people through eastern Europe in the 1930s. Francel and company keep the smiles and stories coming straight through to the finale, which cleverly finds common ground between the music of Jelly Roll Morton and Frederic Chopin. It's faintly amazing that Crossing Life Lines is over after barely an hourleaning toward the hefty side for a single albumand yet it feels like far too little for a work overflowing with so much beauty and life.
Valse du Bohémien; Ada's Song; Look for the Silver Lining; Schaschlik; Lover Man - Oh, Where Can You Be?;
Blues in X Moll; The Rabbi from Namysłów; Wiosna; Ein Sommertag; September Remember; Sám s
děvčetem v dešti; Naab; Frieda; Fredinand's Prelude.