Raphaël Pannier Quartet — Faune
(Bandcamp French Paradox, 2020, CD / DL)
by Jon Davis, Published 2020-10-15
In the growing roster of jazz drummers who are also skilled composers, Raphaël Pannier is a new entry. His debut album as leader features saxophonist Miguel Zenon as a player and musical director, and the music displays some of the qualities that make Zenon’s music so engaging. European Classical music (especially that of French composers) is dear to Pannier’s heart, and he adapts pieces by Ravel and Messaien on Faune, as well as Ornette Coleman, Wayne Shorter, and Hamilton de Holanda; there are also seven of his own compositions. The quartet consists of Pannier and Zenon, bassist François Moutin, and two different pianists on different tracks: Giorgi Mikadze and Aaron Goldberg. Occasional electronics are provided by Jacob Bergson. The set begins with a lovely take on Coleman’s “Lonely Woman” that features great solos from Zenon and Moutin, who also shines on Pannier’s “Midtown Blues.” Messaien’s “Le Baiser de l’Enfant Jésus” is adapted quite appropriately, with its impressionistic melodicism transferred from solo piano to jazz quartet. There are many echoes of the original virtuoso piece in the piano part (Mikadze on this one), probably including some of the spectacular runs and arpeggios verbatim, while Zenon’s sax pulls out the core notes which are sometimes obscured by all of Messaien’s ornamentation. It works quite nicely as a sophisticated jazz piece, and without reading the credits, a listener might not realize it was an arrangement of a Classical piece from 1944. Shorter’s “E.S.P.” gets a great arrangement and an outstanding solo from Zenon. “Capricho de Raphael,” written by de Holanda, is another standout track, with a latin flavor and excellent piano from Goldberg. In many ways Faune is a modern take on the Third Stream music that began in the late 50s, but no matter what you call it, this ensemble smokes through a tasty set of tunes.
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