Necessity is not only the mother of invention, but also of direction. French pianist Matthieu Marthouret initially took on the task of mastering the organ because of problems finding bass players for rehearsals, but he found his own voice on the instrument and discovered a world of possibilities in the process. The debut album from his organ quartetPlayground (MuSt, 2009)served as a launching pad for his explorations in this arena, but the group is in full flight throughout Upbeats.
The cogs on the album cover are a perfect visual to go with this work, as they could easily represent the wheels turning in Marthouret's mind or the intricate, twisted path of the music. Unexpected turns and stylistic diversity are par for the course, as Marthouret and his merry band have their way with this format.
The journey begins with a sprightly bossa nova ("Spring Bossa"), but immediately moves in a different direction with a sly number full of sharp turns ("564"). The program continues with a criminally short, haunting vignette ("Kairos"), a shifty number with a stellar saxophone solo from Nicolas Kummert Voices and a gentle entry that borders on ballad territory and benefits from the light lift provided by drummer Manuel Franchi's brush work.
While Marthouret uses the first half of the album to cover a variety of ground, the last four tracks are all about the energy. Alto saxophonist David Fettmann comes aboard on the title track, ratcheting up the tension as he converses with Kummert's tenor. Kummert continues his streak of strong showings on the funky "The Tree In The Backyard," which also contains some fine back-and-forth between Marthouret and guitarist Maxime Fougeres, while Franchi steps up to the plate on the last two tracks. His swampy, NOLA-inspired drumming lays the ground work on "The Weird Monk," while the final entry on the program"Inconstant Loop"features his most aggressive playing, as Marthouret uses the "end with a bang" ideal to close out the record.
Upbeats isn't about tradition versus innovation; it's about tradition and innovation. Marthouret marries them both throughout this program, which provides a fine glimpse into his world.
Track Listing: Spring Bossa; 564; Kairos; bends; Prelude; Upbeats; The Tree In The Backyard; The wWeird Monk; Inconstant Loop.
Personnel: Matthieu Marthouret: Hammond organ; Nicolas Kummert: tenor saxophone, vocals; David Prez: tenor saxophone; Sandro Zerafa: guitar; Manuel Franchi: drums; David Fettmann: alto saxophone (6).
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