Pierrick Pédron

Fifty-Fifty [1] New York Sessions
(Gazebo)

French alto saxophonist Pierrick Pédron should be as well known and highly esteemed by jazz connoisseurs in America as he is in Europe and Japan. With world-class chops, several distinctly different albums and an abundance of energy and ideas, this horn player has absorbed the lessons of his instrument’s most innovative modernists and alludes to them offhandedly in the course of reveling in his own sound.

Extremely fast and fluid, favoring long, curlicued phrases yet able to pause and linger, apply space and dynamics to the flow, Pédron’s playing is exciting, evocative and often seems inspired. He exploits keening highs, husky vocalizations and sighs, throbbing middle-register tones and an upbeat bounce. He has the blues and swings hard. His original works here may not immediately compel cover versions, but they are witty and evocative, launching performances that excel in narrative sense, romantic lyricism, deft tension-and-release and ensemble interaction.

Pédron celebrated his 50th birthday two years ago by convening this dream band, from which pianist Sullivan Fortner serves as the album’s co-star. His accompaniments are compositional — original, unconventional, unpredictable. His solo intro to “Sakura” seems complete in itself, and he’s also pivotal in the rhythm section. Which is not to take anything away from bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Marcus Gilmore.

Oddly, piano and drums are separated, respectively on left and right tracks, bass and Pédron center of the mix. But they all come together in making this music, which flows richly and, not being obvious, bears repeated listening.