The debut from drummer Raphaël Pannier has no difficulty laying out references to modern modes of impressionism and the nature of wildlife implied in its title. Its opener a ten-minute take on Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman" that offers slinky melody, sophisticated coloring, intense upheaval, a bass soliloquy and a return to the shadowy themeis but the first of many indications that Pannier can paint open compositions in altered light while also awakening and taming tension. It's an artful display of leadership from a most notable new voice.
Leading a top-notch quartet featuring alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon, pianist Aaron Goldberg and bassist Francois Moutin, Pannier makes the grade and moves time and space with his kit. One need only look at some of his original compositions to realize the degree of flexibility at work here. Whether conversationally swinging and pivoting on the bop-friendly "Midtown Blues," leading the band through mutable machinations on "Lullaby," or toggling between gears on the radiant "Fauna," Pannier proves impressive. His technique is second to none, he feels music with both firmness and pliancy, and he shapes every arclarge or smallwith dynamic intention(s).
While this newcomer delivers well-wrought originals and engages with this music's history via the aforementioned Coleman classic and a thrilling and imaginative take on Wayne Shorter's Miles Davis-associated "ESP," he's not limited to the past and present of postmodern jazz. Pannier branches out into Brazilian territory with Hamilton de Holanda's buoyantly charming "Capricho de Raphael." And, of even greater importance and interest, he engages classical music both on his own terms and within its specific confines. The quartet, with Giorgi Mikadze taking over on piano, moves through Olivier Messiaen's Le Baiser de L'enfant Jésus with sweeping suggestions of beauty and pathos; and Pannier draws around the particulars of Maurice Ravel's Forlane, giving the work an air of fantasy that's completely fluid. Teeming with beauty and bent on highlighting both unanimity and expressive independence, Faune is first-rate in every way.
Lonely Woman; Midtown Blues; Lullaby; Messiaen: Le Baiser de L'enfant Jesus; Intro to ESP; ESP; Outro to
"Forlane"; Fauna; Capricho de Raphael; Monkey Puzzle Tree; Final: Drum Soli