Emile Parisien Quintet – Sfumato
(ACT 9837-2. CD review by Jon Turney)
You can pick up a new jazz CD with great playing more or less anytime nowadays. So what makes one stand out? Well, two things make this terrific recording from young French saxophone star Emile Parisien special. There’s an easy creativity in the compositions that brings a constant variety to the set, and a total commitment to each of the styles the group work through.
It’s a new group, too, audibly enjoying discovering what they can do. Parisien, a multi-award winner in France, has departed from his decade-old quartet, and recruited three new cohorts – Manu Codjia on guitar, Simon Tailleu on bass, and Mario Costa on drums. Joachim Kühn, who lived for many years in Paris, makes it a quintet, and brings half a century’s experience of every kind of piano playing into the mix.
Together, they bring off a rich programme which offers something new and delightful to enjoy at every turn. It’s a wild ride at times. A sad, folksy theme has guest Vincent Peirani’s accordion conjuring a single glass of absinthe at a café table, (Le clown tueur de la fête foraine I), but moments before there was a long piano excursion whose free passages gave way to a furious, boppish unison (Poulp). Brainmachine, one of three pieces by Kühn, is a Gothic slow drag with a strong vision of something sinister in the undergrowth; Balladibiza I a funereal lament. You get the idea.
This range of dramatic moods doesn’t make for disjointed listening – a tribute to the breadth of the musical vision behind them. There is individual brilliance here aplenty, from Parisien, especially in some sustained, full-stretch soprano playing, from another star guest, Michel Portal, on bass clarinet, and especially from Kühn, whose work here reminds us that there were complete European piano improvisers long before Michael Wollny. But the group work holds it all in settings that suit each composition perfectly, and allow spirited expression of every feeling they explore.
It all makes for a well-rounded performance that is fresh, consistently engaging, and immensely enjoyable: an impressively ambitious example of contemporary European jazz that takes its influences from anywhere the leader likes and weaves them into new musical stories that sound beautifully natural in the telling.