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Houria is an intriguing mix of composition and improvisation, of North African and Western music, of the modern and the classical, and of Europe and North America. Bassist Stephane Kerecki leads this trio of French musicians, augmented by New York-based reeds player Tony Malaby, through twelve original tunes, and an arrangement of Olivier Messiaen's "O Sacrum Convivium, which are characterized by thoughtful and considered playing.
"Houria" bears the most obvious stamp of Kerecki's North African influencesit's an immediately engaging tune, with Kerecki and drummer Thomas Grimmonprez setting up a powerful, almost funky rhythm, over which Malaby's soprano and Matthieu Donarier's tenor weave around each other. Malaby's soprano sound resembles, at times, the late British saxophonist Elton Dean as it slips and slides around the melody. "Palabre" has a similar sound, but this time both Malaby and Donarier are on sopranosMalaby's warm sound contrasting well with Donarier's brighter tone.
The three short "Duo" tunes are played and co-composed by Kerecki and Malaby, and all three have the feel of improvised, rather than composed, pieces. "Duo 2" is the most effective, with both players Malaby especiallybringing a harder and more aggressive edge to their playing in contrast to the album as a whole. "O Sacrum Convivium" is a slow and contemplative piece, with Kerecki, Grimmonprez and Malaby providing a languid underpinning to Donarier's lovely soprano.
The quality of musicianship on Houria is extremely high and the strength of the ensemble playing is stunningit sounds like Malaby has played with the group for years, such is the understanding across the four players. Grimmonprez is particularly impressive, but all four players are central to the album's feel. Kerecki makes good use of his wide ranging influences to create a varied and dynamic set of tunes.
Track Listing: Macadam; Un Ange Passe (for Fanny); Houria; A L'air Libre; Palabre; Duo 1; Suite For Tony; Fable; Duo 2; Satellise; O Sacrum Convivium; Duo 3; Secret d'orielle (for Milan).
Personnel: Stephane Kerecki: bass; Tony Malaby: tenor and soprano sax; Matthieu Donarier: tenor and soprano sax; Thomas Grimmonprez: drums.