The Forgas Band Phenomena's latest release blurs idiomatic considerations so extensively they render stylistic definitions irrelevant. No one can accuse bandleader and principal composer Patrick Forgas of being tame or conservative in his writing and arrangements. The shortest piece on the CD is over eight minutes, and the extremely intense "Coup De Theatre (Expect the Unexpected)" spans almost 35, though it contains enough surprising transitions to retain interest.
Forgas made plenty of rhythmically challenging, edgy music during the '70s and early- '80s before temporarily retiring. He's been leading various editions of the Forgas Band since the mid-'90s, and this octet version has a twin sax, trumpet, guitar and violin frontline ably suited for works whose opening melodies quickly give way to furious exchanges, spirited solos and passages bouncing back and forth between avant-garde jazz and shorter, rock-tinged statements.
The band members with the most prominent jazz pedigrees include tenor/soprano saxophonist Stanislas De Nussac, violinist Frederic Norel and alto saxophonist Denis Guivar'ch, whose rich tone and bright, soulful lines embrace the modern bop tradition and also dip into the soul/blues vocabulary. Keyboardist Igor Brover and guitarist Sylvain Ducloux add sonic spice and rock leanings, with Forgas' sparkling drumming uniting disparate elements into a rhythmically smooth and fluid sound. While there are periods in "Coup De Theatre" and "Pieuvre a la Pluie" when the Forgas Band takes far too long to conclude segments that have peaked creatively, the bulk of Soleil 12 is captivating.