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Sophie Alour: Shaker

Dan Bilawsky By

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French saxophonist Sophie Alour has gone organ-ic for her fifth album. Shaker finds her fronting an organ trio, delivering music that's alternately funky, rocking, and (occasionally) soothing.

Alour put together a program of tunes that focuses on groove, melody, and the beauty that exists when those two elements work together. She often looks to create uncluttered, catchy, upbeat music, but that's not the whole story. Exuberance certainly oozes from the band when it lets the funk flag fly high on pieces like "Joke," "Shaker," and "I Wanna Move My Body," but this group isn't a one-trick pony. Shifting time feels and kaleidoscopic groove adjustments keep everybody on their toes during the hard hitting "In This World," a somewhat gentle stream carries "Comptine" along, and "Nos Cendres" has a few surprises of its own. Then there's the Latin-ized, metrically adjusted Sergio Mendes arrangement of "My Favorite Things," and two different spins on "En Ton Absence"—a short organ piece that's all Sunday morning solemnity. The lure of Alour is in the way she creates a throwback record that still mixes in enough modernity and variety to keep things interesting.

The core group—Alour, organist Frederic Nardin and drummer Frederic Pasqua—has a good thing going. All three musicians travel along streamlined paths, follow the bends in the road together with precision, and aren't afraid to get a little dirty along the way. Three guests—trumpeter Julien Alour, guitarist Hugo Lippi, and drummer/percussionist Julie Saury—help to fill out the sound and add some variety on "Shaker," "I Wanna Move My Body!," and "My Favorite Things."

Shaker isn't earth-shattering in its conception or delivery, but it offers great fun and a few twists and surprises; in this particular case, that's more than enough to hold interest.

Track Listing: Joke; In This World; Comptine; Shaker; En Ton Absence; Mystere Et Boule De Gomme!; I Wanna Move My Body; Nos Cendres; My Favorite Things; En Ton Absence.

Personnel: Sophie Alour: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute (9), electronic organ (10); Frederic Nardin: organ; Frederic Pasqua: drums, tambourine; Julien Alour: trumpet (4, 7, 9); Hugo Lippi: guitar (4, 7, 9); Julie Saury: drums (7), guiro (9), jam block (9).

Title: Shaker | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Naive

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