Despite the reunion now nearly a decade old, there's nothing out of place or out of time about the vibrant Moutin Reunion Quartet. The groupco-led by twin brothers François (bass) and Louis (drums) Moutinhas delivered fiery album after fiery album since its 2002 debut, Power Tree
(Dreyfus), but it's only been since its third release, Something Like Now
(Nocturne, 2005), that the group has settled on the winning line-up of keyboardist Pierre de Bethmann and saxophonist Rick Margitza
Since then, MRQ's combination of modern mainstream energy and tasteful application of electric keyboards has been honed with extensive gigging and a double-sided follow-up, Sharp Turns (Blujazz, 2007). Soul Dancers doesn't represent a significant change in the group's M.O., but there's plenty to recommend. Always informed by 1970s fusion supergroup Weather Report, here the references are even more direct than usual.
If there's any period in Weather Report's 15-year history that drives MRQ, it's that of Night Passage (Columbia, 1980), when the group returned to a more decidedly swinging, less funk-driven approach. MRQ's increasing reliance on electric keyboards creates a more direct lineage, as Soul Dances' opener, Louis' "Sold Answers," draws in structure and groove from Night Passage's fervently swinging title track. François may play acoustic bass rather than the late Jaco Pastorius' fretless electric, but the references are clear; he's an equally virtuosic player with a similarly robust tone and visceral sense of time. He also demonstrated that he's a deeply lyrical player in his solo on the balladic "Depths Light," co-written by the Moutins and paying homage to classic Joe Zawinul tunes like Night Passage's "Dream Clock" and "A Remark You Made," from Heavy Weather (Columbia, 1977).
That's not to say Soul Dancers is solely driven by Weather Report's influence. As they've done with Charlie Parker and John Coltrane on previous discs, a medley based on Thelonious Monk serves as a duet feature to focus most sharply on the remarkable symbiosis shared by these twin brothers throughout the disc.
With François' affiliation for Pastorius, the balladic tribute, "Blesses and Cursed," comes as no surprise. The bassist's material occupies much of the disc's second half including the knotty burner "Clinton Parkview," which features a piercing solo from American expat Margitza and an equally powerful acoustic piano solo from de Bethmann. Louis solos rarely, but his supportranging from lithe, cymbal-driven work on his contrapuntally challenging "Forgotten Feelings" to his more muscular approach on the funkier "Momentum"remains fundamental to the group's sound. And when he does solo on the closing, mid-tempo modal swinger, "Quiet Force," he demonstrates a focused sense of construction.
With a combination of engaged and invested playing that's steadily evolving a distinctive group sound, and a repertoire that draws on its influences liberally while still possessing a voice of its own, Moutin Reunion Quartet's Soul Dancers is another fine release from a group that continues on an upward trajectory.
Sold Answers; Depths Light; Momentum; Monk's Medley; Mr. N.R.; Blessed and Cursed; Clinton Parkview; Forgotten Feelings; Quiet Forge.
François Moutin: upright acoustic bass, composition; Louis Moutin: drums, composition; Pierre de Bethmann: piano, keyboards, voice; Rick Margitza: tenor saxophone.