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Lucky People-- Moutin Factory Quintet

The twin Moutin Brothers, Francois and Louis, have made their marks over the years as co-leaders of the Moutin Reunion Quartet, and as much-in-demand sideman due to the mastery of their respective instruments, bass and drums. After five well-received recordings by the Quartet featuring Rick Margitza and Pierre de Bethmann, the Moutins now reveal their new project, the Moutin Factory Quintet, with saxophonist Christophe Monniot, guitarist Emmanuel Codjia, and pianist Thomas Enhco. One element remains unchanged, and that is the personality of the Moutins' music-- unfettered stylistically, provocatively arranged, and laden with zestful improvisations and interaction. Through six originals from Paris-based Louis and three from New York resident Francois, plus an Ornette Coleman medley, this new ensemble manages to sound ageless and sublimely vital.

Monniot and Codjia play the soothing theme of the opening "Lucky People" with an almost contemporary jazz feel, but the piece then departs temporarily and dramatically from that mode with post bop inflections from alto and guitar. The solos from Francois and Codjia that follow are in keeping with the theme's uplifting lyricism, while Monniot's edgy, more unbridled out chorus again offers a refreshing contrast. Francois' soulful bass solo prefaces the jazz fusion strain of "Dragonfly," with the Moutins providing a vigorous undercurrent. Enhco's endeavor possesses a Herbie Hancock-like flow and curiosity, and Codjia wails infectiously in Metheny-Rosenwinkel territory. Monniot's sopranino solo not only displays great technical command but also lucidly communicates. Francois' bass sets the tone for the reflective "Soul," as unfurled by Monniot's soprano. Enhco's improv evokes Keith Jarrett's sense of wonderment, and Francois' take is strongly emotional. Monniot wraps up the solos with beseeching outcries, supported by Codjia's pealing chords and Louis' forceful accentuations. "Ornette's Medley" begins with Francois' winning bass recital of "Ramblin'," backed only by brother Louis. After their individual solos on that tune, the duo take on "Blues Connotation" with equal gusto and creativity.

The free-form intro by Monniot to "Relativity" is soon replaced by an urgently arresting theme enhanced by pounding bass and slashing drums. Monniot's alto solo retains much of the energy of his opening, but with much more substance and purpose. Enhco's spot scampers and prods animatedly, and Codjia's boisterous statement is a study in the efficacious use of distortion and fuzz tones. The driving out chorus takes delightfully surprising turns somewhere between rock and swing sensibilities. Codjia and Francois take on the thrustful melody of "Forgiveness" in unison, and Monniot's alto then engages in hearty conversation with the bassist, who delivers the first agile, thematically focused solo. The guitarist succeeds him with an inviting, damped down ringing timbre, before a reprise that only leads to Enhco's exploration, replete with sustained, flavorful phrasings, that ultimately unfolds as the track's concluding pronouncement. "A Busy Day" contains a robust, declarative theme, again buoyed by bassist Moutin's imposing lines, and with a repeating, modified motif that recalls Hancock's "Survival of the Fittest." Francois' solo is a prime example of his technical skill merging with depth of feeling. Codjia responds with a flight highlighted by intricately spun runs and attractive tonal variations, and Enhco in turn impresses with the sprightly ebb and flow of his improv.

For "Moving On," Francois' bass and Codjia's guitar each develop parts of the sweet-tempered melody. Next comes an endless and seamless procession of brief rotating solos from all concerned, providing an appealingly different and compelling approach for the duration-- moving on indeed. Long, eerie notes from Codjia initiate "You'll Be Fine," in tandem with Moutin's cavernous, echoing bass. Codjia plays the staccato scalar head above contrapuntal rhythmic streams from his three cohorts. This magnetic arrangement includes an intense bass solo, Codjia's adroitly distorted, driven contribution, and Monniot's intriguing sopranino fills beneath them both. Drums, bass, and piano in dialogue vibrantly precede Monniot's crystalline alto reading of the catchy, compact theme to "Conflict." Enhco and Monniot expand upon its content with spirited, beneficial attentiveness, and Louis' no-holds-barred barrage over Francois' vamp then steals the show.

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Scott Albin