Pierrick Pédron – Fifty Fifty New York Sessions
(Gazebo GAZ 198. Review by Jon Carvell)
With track names such as Sakura, Mizue, Bullet T and Origami, you could be forgiven for thinking that French saxophonist extraordinaire Pierrick Pédron was celebrating his 50th birthday in Japan. Pédron certainly tours regularly to the Land of the Rising Sun, and you can sense the purist influence of the Tokyo clubs in his sophisticated straight-ahead style, but this album is all about going back to the source, back to New York and back to the musical language of Charlie Parker.
This is the first of two albums being released in 2021 to mark Pédron’s recent half century, with the second, due out in the autumn, promising contemporary Parisian grooves. To start the celebrations, Pédron presents his Fifty Fifty New York Sessions, showcasing the great bassist Larry Grenadier and two leading lights of the new generation, Sullivan Fortner (piano) and Marcus Gilmore (drums). It’s an all-acoustic 50-minute set and makes a good case for Pédron to be considered one of the classiest alto operators around right now.
Considering his first album Cherokee contained a particularly blistering rendition of the standard, you might assume that Pédron is all bebop and no ballad, but it’s in the slower tunes on this new disc that he really shines. Sakura is a beautiful evocation of a flowering cherry tree, featuring a meditative introduction from Fortner and a typically lyrical solo from Grenadier. Elsewhere, Mizue begins with a beguiling counterpoint between Pédron and Grenadier, which builds to a chart of significant intensity and depth, whilst Trevise showcases Fortner in cascades of broken chords which shimmer into a glitteringly fresh atmosphere. And don’t worry, Pédron can still swing as hard as ever, as the unrelenting zip of Bullet T will attest.
It’s hard to square the Pédron of this disc with the wild intercontinental funk of his 2016 album And the, but perhaps that’s the point here. Pédron has the versatility and technical dexterity to let loose in a blazing Mulatu Astatke-style groove one year and then deliver an album of swing as crisp as a glass of Sauvignon in another.