Gambit

COMPOSERS: Julien Lourau
LABELS: Warner Jazz
PERFORMER: Julien Lourau (as, ts, ss, bs), Malik Mezzadri (fl, v), Mxime Zampieri (d), Sylvain Daniel (b), Papa Noel Ekwabe (b), Minino Garay (perc), Stephanus Vivens, Dondieu Divin (ky), etc
CATALOGUE NO: 8573-83439-2

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I first heard the French band led by Julien Lourau when they were the support group at the Medeski, Martin & Wood concert at London’s Barbican earlier this year, where they made a considerable impression. Their music seemed utterly contemporary, of and for the 21st century, with long spells of ecstatically rocking Afro-American rhythms, drum and bass elements with DJ pre-programmed electronic sections and compositions which ‘breathed’ satisfactorily.

Lourau is a phenomenal saxophone virtuoso, as is his colleague on the flute, Malik Mezzadri, who is also a singer with a falsetto which gives him a range of several octaves. Lourau is a jazz musician through and through and he and Mezzadri are also excellent composers. Gambit is an extremely rich album often alternating short introductory pieces with longer pieces.

The brief opening piece, ‘Dark’, has clarion calls from Lourau’s alto sax with electronics by Shalom, and segues into Lourau’s ‘Lonely Night’, which builds beautifully to wild climaxes and culminates in elegiac singing by Mezzadri in normal and falsetto voice. Flute and soprano sax create wonderful rhythmic effects in the brief third piece which leads into Mezzadri’s ‘Conrod’ with electronic rhythms and effects, and some lovely unison passages for flute and soprano.

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Gambit ends with two scorching live performances at the New Morning in Paris. First, Mezzadri’s ‘Marthe and La Jungle’ has a loping rocky rhythm and a superbly adventurous alto sax solo, then dramatic band punctuations launch a drum solo which draws audience applause, the loping rhythm returns, and flute and alto play a wild duet before a quiet ending. Finally, Lourau’s ‘Candombe’ features his almost superhuman alto sax solo, in a terrifically exhilarating band performance.