COMPOSERS: Brad Mehldau,Wayne Shorter etc
WORKS: Works by Brad Mehldau, Wayne Shorter, Lennon & McCartney, Chic Corea, Bruce Springsteen, Charlie Chaplin, Nicholas Roubanis etc
PERFORMER: Quatuor Ebène; with Natalie Dessay (soprano), Fanny Ardant, Stacey Kent, Luz Casal (singer)
CATALOGUE NO: 628 6680
Billed as a ‘jazz and world music album’, this new Quatuor Ebène CD is very different from the group’s previous two Virgin releases, of Debussy/Ravel/Fauré and Brahms respectively. The slashing attack and strident sound quality of ‘Misirlou’ (made famous by Pulp Fiction) may initially disconcert the unwary listener, but it’s soon clear that this is no ordinary ‘crossover’ project.
In fact, it isn’t really ‘crossover’ at all – these guys obviously swing and rock in their bones, with none of the embarrassingly trammelled, self-conscious posturing that often characterises the efforts of classically trained musicians to go native.
The guest list is also impressive: Fanny Ardant delivers a smoky ‘Lilac Wine’, Natalie Dessay a disarming ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’, Stacey Kent a cool, silky take on ‘Corcovado’.
The Ebène’s have vocal talent too, violist Mathieu Herzog soloing capably on Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Streets of Philadelphia’, all four players a cappella-ing wistfully (in French) on ‘Someday my Prince will Come’, occasionally aired as an encore at the quartet’s live concerts.
Not all the arrangements work (The Beatles’s ‘Come Together’ proves virtually untranslatable), but they are mainly convincing. The string playing itself is teeming with natural flair and intuitive understanding of jazz and popular idioms. Terry Blain