By Martin Longley | Published March 2022
The French saxophonist Émile Parisien is usually known for his extreme solo displays, involving passion, virtuosity and invention, at the very least, but often a smear of humor, and the bonus visual input of his highly expressive leg-dancing.
This potent Pied Piper persona commonly exists in smaller band formations, notably when Parisien is playing alongside the accordionist Vincent Peirani. For these sessions, Parisien chooses a more conceptual role, leading an ensemble, composing around half of the material, but spreading around the solo freedom, and also inviting three of his bandmates to contribute compositions.
The lineup also has a Euro-American nature, with Theo Croker (trumpet), Joe Martin (bass) and Nasheet Waits (drums) joining up with Parisien’s fellow Parisians Manu Codjia (guitar) and Roberto Negro (piano).
The album’s centrepiece is “Memento,” a three-part suite of French melancholy fusion. Parisien’s soprano leads Sidney Bechet towards his fantasy electric period, beginning with a floating procession.
The horns are poignantly matched in their phrasing, while the guitar comping has a scaly exterior before hatching into an echo-calling behemoth from 1983. For a jazz solo in this setting, Codija pushes it as far as he can. The horns encroach again, and the striding theme peaks.
The second, shorter part has an android lurch, effects turned on, while the third section prefers a rollin’ groove, Waits pushing hard, Codija’s guitar jerking and Croker’s trumpet darkened low.
Parisien’s “Jojo” is an imaginary candidate for Ornette Coleman’s Song X with Pat Metheny, and it’s the number where the leader does most of his soprano showing-off, on the high-speed articulacy front, with Waits setting up a perpetual rapid tumbling, and Croker eventually blooming out into a sparse cloud of contemplation.
The Louise of the album title is the French artist Louise Bourgeois, given a mournful and measured homage by Parisien, fully exploring the ensemble palette. This is chased by Joe Zawinul’s “Madagascar,” a complete contrast, with its pushy, string-shuddering bass, as Je Martin grapples with each percussive possibility of a phrase, head down for a forceful spine-line, the horns aligned like twins.
Codija, Negro and Croker’s tune contributions are varied. Negro’s “Il Giorno Della Civetta” has a floating blues quality, cinematic in scope, unravelling with dignity.
Codija’s “Jungle Jig” is short and intense, with Negro’s piano energized as the band drives busily. Croker ends the album with his “Prayer 4 Peace,” calming all surroundings with some thoughtfully open spaces.
Louise: Louise; Madagascar; Memento; Il Giorno Della Civetta; Jojo; Jungle Jig; Prayer 4 Peace. (54:41)
Personnel: Émile Parisien, soprano saxophone; Theo Croker, trumpet; Manu Codija, guitar; Roberto Negro, piano; Joe Martin, bass; Nasheet Waits, drums.
Ordering Info: actmusic.com