On his first recording as a leader, drummer Raphaël Pannier shows himself to be a musician who has one foot in the classical world and one foot in jazz. He leads his group in a set of original and classic compositions from both genres, maintaining a sense of formal grace and improvisational energy throughout.
Pannier's quartet performs two familiar jazz tunes. A version of Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman" flows with somber intensity; Miguel Zenon's alto flies and Ben Goldberg's piano gallops while Pannier and bassist Francois Moutin fulminate underneath. Meanwhile, a tense energy comes out of the group's rendition of Wayne Shorter's "ESP"; Zenon smears the melody over an anxious rhythmic drive while Goldberg dances and darts. Pannier also provides two original pieces which are firmly in the jazz camp; "Midtown Blues" is a frisky piano trio romp, while "Lullaby" is a dreamier work with Zenon's alto wispily sighing and nudging against Goldberg's distracted piano.
On two pieces by classical composers, Olivier Messiaen's "Le Baiser de l'Enfant Jesus" and Maurice Ravel's "Forlane," classical pianist Giorgi Mikadze replaces Goldberg. He brings a delicate, devotional touch to the Messiaen work which complements Zenon's gentle alto rapture and Pannier's rustling drums. On the Ravel, his piano lightly skips through an eerie waltz melody with faint electronic fizz in the background, and Pannier's drums roll alongside like ocean waves even as the electronics begin to gradually envelop the piano.
Elsewhere there is a pronounced mixing of the jazz and classical worlds. "Fauna" is an impressionistic trio track with Goldberg's piano proceeding in stately but twisting lines against plush bass tones and racing drums. Similarly, on "Capricho de Raphael" the piano leaps about with a Spanish dance flavor over nimble rhythm work. "Monkey Puzzle Tree" goes back to the full quartet line-up but with Mikadze in the piano chair. His luminous touch gets nestled against Zenon's rippling sax sound as the composition moves from swarming, pastoral waves to tricky, jagged rhythm beats. Zenon's alto chirps and swoops soulfully all the way through.
In this music, there is a careful but effective balance between classical structure and jazz drive. It has moments of dazzling beauty and gritty propulsion, sometimes both at once. Raphael Pannier mines a very refined vein of classical and jazz here, resulting in excellent music.
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
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