Fusion fans lucky enough to catch John McLaughlin's 2007 North American tour were also fortunate to hear Hadrien Ferauda 23 year-old French electric bassist who has been justifiably garnering significant attention since first appearing on the guitarist's Industrial Zen (Verve, 2006). On tour, McLaughlin continually referred to Feraud as "a rising star, and "The New Jaco not because he plays like the late Jaco Pastorius, but because the guitarist considers Feraud to be an equally impressive discovery.
The bassist's eponymous debut completely justifies McLaughlin's accolades. Completely self-taught and a non-reader, Feraud possesses the kind of harmonic breadth most spend years studying to acquire. He's a flexible player, with the kind of dexterity and ears that few, other than perhaps Matthew Garrison, can match. As a child of the new millennium, his view of high-energy fusion includes the seamless use of technology that's become de rigueur in many areas of contemporary jazz. He's also a fine writer, with a quirky, episodic conception that's as distinctive as it is imaginative.
In this program of largely original material he applies his idiosyncratic approach to a couple of standards, though you're not likely to hear versions of John Coltrane's mettle-tester "Giant Steps or George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue like this anywhere else. "Steps is a multi-tracked duet with Linley Marthe, both playing bass and a variety of odd sounds that make the tune sound as if it's being played through a prism. Both players contribute stunning solos, even as the tune dissolves into freedom towards the end. "Rhapsody grooves harder, skewed into shifting meters, with Feraud alternating its two most definitive themes with accordionist Marc Berthoumieux before heading into a twisting and turning middle section featuring solos liberally spread amongst Berthoumieux, synthesist Thierry Eliez, guitarist Biréli Lagrène and Feraud, who engages in a brief but fiery exchange with drummer Jon Grandcamp.
McLaughlin guests on a reworked version of his own "High Jacked, where Feraud uncannily executes the rapid-fire opening passage that's usually done with a sequencer. Feraud's mind-boggling speed isn't an end in itself, he just thinks faster than most. His solos are often lyrical and always well-constructed, rather than simply a display of admittedly formidable chops. He also possesses a unique percussive approach; another distinguishing characteristic.
The bassist's writing is no less impressive, often episodic in nature, but with sections that ultimately interweave. There's the funk of two versions of "Marie Ael, where he shares bass duties with another McLaughlin alumnus, Dominique Di Piazza. The opening of "Natural recalls vintage Weather Report, but quickly turns contemporary, with Feraud's filtered bass and Jean-Pierre Como's Zawinul-esque synth shifting between a half-time groove and more energetic interaction.
With the landscape considerably different than it was when Jaco's debut was released in 1976, it's hard for any album to shake the world. Still, Hadrien Feraud introduces a young talent who, if there's any justice, will ultimately be considered just as groundbreaking and significant. Only time will tell.
Rumeurs; Marie Ael; Natural; High Jacked; Giant Steps; Jet Sun Dance; Hadrien & Linley Trip 1; Clair Obscur; Rhapsody in Blue; Shall We Love?; Hadiren & Linley Trip 2; Maria Christine; Marie Ael (long version); Outro Trip 3.
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