French saxophonist Sophie Alour's Opus 3 is not only her third album as a leader, it is also her first in a trio setting. The recipient of the French Django D'or award, Alour departs from the electric intensity of her previous release, Uncaged (Nocturne, 2007), to explore her voice as an instrumentalist. The 11 originals are tone poems bearing heavy western classical influences, with occasional peppering of other styles that showcase the leader on both tenor and soprano saxophones.
"Eloge du lointain" for example, has hints of Caribbean rhythms, with Alour's rapid-fire, staccato tenor enhancing the island ambience created by Karl Januska's rhythmic drums. Much like Sonny Rollins ' classic "St Thomas," she extends her improvisation far beyond the tune, although her sound is not as brassy as the legendary saxophonist, but rounder and more fluid.
There is not much distinction made on these tracks between the composed and the improvised. Alour's solos build on a basic foundation, but the final result is a musical construct that is quite imaginative and far-reaching. Her angular soprano on "Mystère et boule de gomme!" climbs logically up the scales and chords driven by Januska's propulsive drumming and anchored by Yoni Zelnik's resonant bass.
Alour's warm tenor blows softly over Zelnik's undulating notes on "Grekerna," its melancholic melody bearing hints of Eastern European music, while Zelnik's atonal pizzicato carries a conversation with Alour's unpredictable yet never out of place musical ideas on "Ode à Arthur Cravan." The stylistic angularity continues on "Haunted," featuring a lengthy tenor solo that is quite mellifluous with Januska's hyper-rhythmic drums bringing a rock sensibility to the piece.
Alour's fast lines add bop flavor to "Karlston," while the delightful cacophony that ends the march-like "Caprice" reflects Alour's more avant-garde side. The classical influences are most heard on the serpentine romantic song "En ton absence" and atmospheric and explorative sonata, "Petite anatomie du temps qui passe..."
Opus 3 is a more personal and more mature recording than Alour's previous two; although it lacks the energy and the excitement of her Uncaged, it is an intimate portrait of an artist with great promise.
Grekerna; Mystere et boule de gomme; Eloge du lointain; Ode a Arthur
Cravan; Haunted; En ton absence; Why people always laugh about serious things; Pensee vagabonde; Caprice; Karlston; Petite anatomie du temps qui passe...
Sophie Alour: tenor and soprano saxophones; Karl Jannuska: drums; Yoni Zelnik: bass.
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