CD review

Multiquarium Big Band feat. Biréli Lagrène – “Remembering Jaco”

Multiquarium Big Band feat. Biréli Lagrène – Remembering Jaco
(Naïve Records NJ7194. CD review by Peter Jones)

Jaco Pastorius is well worth remembering, so this new album by French big band Multiquarium would be welcome for that reason alone. But this is a superior collection by any standards. No single arranger is credited: one can only assume the job was a collaboration instigated by the band’s leaders, drummer André Charlier and pianist/organist Benoît Sourisse. Meanwhile, Biréli Lagrène (best known as a guitarist, although he sticks to fretless bass here), has the almost impossible task of living up to Pastorius’s legacy. Lagrène has certainly earned the right: as a guitarist, he played and recorded with Jaco, and was co-credited with him on the posthumous 1986 album Stuttgart Aria.

And what an astonishing player he is. Just listen to the intro to Invitation which the band plays at around 160bpm with Lagrène pumping out the sixteenth notes with the greatest of ease. Personally, as a long-time admirer of the great Laurence Cottle (not to mention Laurence’s disciple Janek Gwizdala), that makes my head spin. I would add that anyone who is still suspicious of the Pastorius style, regarding the very concept of “lead bass” as a contradiction, might do well to give this a listen. Producer Charlier has sensibly avoided mixing Lagrène too high, so that his playing doesn’t dominate: he blends in beautifully.

As you’d expect, the tunes on Remembering Jaco are taken from both the Weather Report years and Jaco’s solo career. Material from his eponymous official first solo album includes Continuum, Kuru/Speak Like a Child and (Used to be a) Cha-Cha. There’s also a version of Jaco’s composition Teen Town from Weather Report’s Heavy Weather, with its memorable bass intro, while Invitation, Liberty City and Fannie Mae all appeared on his Invitation live album from 1983.

Remembering Jaco is an enjoyably varied set. The band is super-tight, and they swing like a barn door in a gale. Not everything is taken at the sort of uptempo clip we usually associate with Jaco: Three Views of a Secret is a serene waltz, and there are some fine solos here from Stéphane Chausse on clarinet, Pierre Perchaud on guitar and Claude Egéa on flugelhorn. Elsewhere I particularly enjoyed the solo work of altoist Lucas Saint-Cricq and pianist Sourisse on Barbary Coast. The album culminates with Buster Brown’s blues Fannie Mae, sung here with gravelly panache by Yannick Boudruche.

My only reservation concerns the four spoken-word contributions about Jaco from Peter Erskine, scattered between the tracks. There’s nothing wrong with them – they are thoughtful and well delivered. It’s just that you only need to hear them once or maybe twice, not every time you play the album – which will be frequently.

Links: Multiquarium live concert from 2019

Jaco accompanying Toots Thielmans on piano

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