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Sebastien Jarrousse / Olivier Robin Quintet: Tribulation

Jeff Dayton-Johnson By

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Three-fifths of the quintet on this record—tenor and soprano saxophonist Jarrousse, drummer Robin and bassist Jean Daniel Botta—just wrapped up a month-long run as the on-stage jazz band in Emmanuel Dongala's theatrical tribute to John Coltrane, A Love Supreme. (The Tarmac de la Villette theater has just announced that it will reprise the play in February 2007; French-speaking, jazz-loving visitors to Paris, mark your calendars now.) What was impressive about their performance was the fact that they weren't overwhelmed by the looming presence of Coltrane, Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison.

When you see a really good theatrical performance, you sometimes wonder where the role ends and the actor's genuine personality begins. So one approaches the debut disc by this quintet wondering how much of their playing on the theater stage was homage to their forebears, and how much was their own musical voices.

It turns out one hears a lot of Coltrane in Jarrousse's playing, but not just that: his is already a unique voice. His rhythmic attack and his placement of notes are not at all obvious. Robin delightfully masters Elvin Jones' polyrhythmic drive in the confines of a small theater and on the title track of this recording, but in general the drumming on the record is leaner, more taut and restricted to the high-register than was Jones.'

Pianist Spanyi is the real revelation of Tribulation. As an improviser, he speaks in paragraphs, not sentences, employing a marvelously baroque architecture that flowers from the simplest of materials. Listen to the way his solo on "Bloom" evolves from a few raindrops, or the way he echoes the last few notes of Jarrousse's solo on the obliquely boppish "Journée à Préfailles."

Theirs is the wonderful musical world of mid-'60s jazz: Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage and its shifting metres; the classic Miles Davis quintet's vertiginous tempos; the great Jazz Messengers multiple-horn lineups; touches of Dolphy and Mingus. There is all of that, as well as hints of many other times and places: David Murray, Steve Lacy... the list goes on.

Mostly, there is a satisfying mix of intelligence—in the compositions, the arrangements and the solos—and the ineffable esprit de corps that emerges when group members listen closely to one another.

Track Listing: Tribulation; Au bout du Rouleau; Hypothalamus; Complicated Lady; Journée à Préfailles; Bloom; Bodyguard; Scratch; Mars Plastic.

Personnel: Sébastien Jarrousse: tenor and soprano saxophone; Olivier Bogé: alto saxophone; Emil Spanyi: piano; Jean Daniel Botta: bass; Olivier Robin: drums.

Title: Tribulation | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Aphrodite Records

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