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Julien Lourau: Quartet Saigon

Bruce Lindsay By

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Marseilles-based saxophonist Julien Lourau brought Quartet Saigon together in 2007, and both the group and album are named for the city where they made their debut performance: Saigon, Vietnam. Quartet Saigon is an inventive and intelligent album and shows that a classic four-piece with talent and imagination can still create original tunes.

The album consists mainly of original compositions, with the exception of one standard, the closing "A House is Not a Home." The Burt Bacharach/Hal David tune is treated with due respect for its beautiful melody, especially by Lourau's precise and lyrical saxophone playing. Writing credits are otherwise shared equally between Lourau and long-term collaborator and pianist Laurent Coq. The two composers complement each other's styles—Coq's compositions tend to be more flowing and relaxed, and less cerebral than Lourau's, but such differences are slight.

Lourau has name-checked both Sonny Rollins and Wayne Shorter as influences. He performs on tenor and soprano saxophones, but his soprano work is especially strong, as evidenced by his performances on "Walking on Water" and "Saigon." He is a lyrical and melodic player, although he's capable of some more free-blowing and aggressive work on "Nico," and demonstrates a pleasing economy of style. Coq is also an economical player—particularly when accompanying Lourau's solos—while his own solos are fine examples of considered and thoughtful construction.

The New York-based rhythm section of bassist Thomas Bramerie and drummer Otis Brown III is smooth. "Saigon Intro" is a solo performance by Bramerie. A beautifully restrained and fluid performance, it serves as a perfect introduction to Lourau's "Saigon," which is itself the most complex and ambitious tune on the album.

Quartet Saigon is an auspicious recording debut. The ensemble playing is tight and intuitive, the solos inventive and accessible, and Lourau and Coq provide some beautiful compositions. On this showing, Quartet Saigon is a band to watch.

Title: Quartet Saïgon | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Label Bleu


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