French guitarist's Philippe Coignet
's new ensemble recording is like that of a well-rooted tree with many powerful branches reaching out uniquely, but collectively connecting back to its inner core. EHA (pronounced as a long A-ha) is comprised of a five-part nucleus with several worldly guest stars. In addition to Coignet, the quintet features fellow Frenchman Damien Schmitt
on drums, bassist Michel Alibo
from Martinique, pianist Leandro Aconcha
from Switzerland, and Brazilian saxophonist Cacau de Queiroz
Eleven distinctly original compositions from Coignet are judiciously arranged by Aconcha. EHA is fusion of the highest order, melding world music, jazz and funk. Boldly electric, mildly eclectic, with acoustic trappings, Coignet's musical vision is an ear opener. It clearly exemplifies the multicultural music scene of Paris, stretching well beyond its borders with the freedom of no boundaries.
Eight stalwarts of the jazz community from around the world were assembled to join the quintet. Thirteen is far from an unlucky number in this scenario. Layers of depth from "on top of their game" musicians are displayed in defining moments of power and acute musicianship. It does not always work to bring together an all-star band. Sometimes egos get in the way, or the chemistry just is not there, or perhaps the expectations are too high. On this occasion, Coignet's compositional gems were warmly embraced. He clearly wrote to their strengths and the artists thrived in the richly creative environment. Three percussionists were brought in to invigorate the rhythm section. From Chile, Mario Contreras
, from Colombia, Juan Manuel Forero and, from Argentina, Minino Garay
, all did just that and then some. It should be noted, on the subject of percussion, drummer Schmitt most impressively would seem to be made of both clay and iron. Both the pliability to mold eleven rhythmic structures and moods, and the fortitude to drive and steer them with authority. Steel pans were also added to a couple of songs. In the adroit hands of Andy Narell
, USA, they took on the hue of keyboards.
Another import from Brazil was the big trumpet of Rubinho Antunes
on seven tracks. Playing on the same seven tracks is also gifted alto saxophonist Sulaiman Hakim
of the USA, and playing both the trombone and tuba, multi-talented Lionel Segui
from France. They all brought a bright tonality, raw power, and their own distinctive voices to the project.
Last, but not least, Coignet was ecstatic to have New York City's Mike Stern
join the party for three tunes. The moment is enhanced when you consider that they became friends some twenty-five years ago, but this is the first time they have ever recorded together. Perhaps the finest example of Coignet writing to the strengths of his personnel can be found on "Nuits Magnetiques." The record's longest track, at over nine and one-half minutes, Stern enters at the midpoint after a most glorious setup. A brilliant composition of call and response, in which Stern's response may take your breath away.
Because of his compositional prowess and the overall significance of this first-class fusion record, Coignet's ample skillset with his axe has not been acknowledged. Suffice to say that the cat can play. It would appear, much like his old friend Stern, he is more interested in the full picture of structure, composition, arrangement and the collective sound. Bravo to that in the theoretical sense, and bravo again to this sincerely fine piece of art.
1984(Fanfare); Mars; Missie Didie; Nuits Magnétiques; 1984(Funky Cover); 2 Stars in my Skies; Celeste A; Toronto Layover; Dudatjo; Plain
Dance; Queen of my Nights.