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Pierre Favre Ensemble: Fleuve

Drummer Pierre Favre displays such sensitivity to tonal nuance on his instrument that it’s little wonder his compositions burst with felicitous detail. Drawing on the resources of an unconventional ensemble (when was the last time the dragon, an unwieldy military horn with 16th-century origins, popped up in a jazz context, or any at all?). Favre rigorously transforms Fleuve into a kaleidoscope of surprising musical colors.

Well, nearly surprising. While the imaginative combinations of electric and acoustic basses, harp, electric guitar, bass clarinet, tuba, percussion and the aforementioned dragon distinguish the project, the use of piping soprano saxophone (as played by the adept Frank Kroll, who shines on bass clarinet) can land the quirky group sound back in overly familiar ECM territory. A niggling complaint perhaps, but Favre demonstrates the kind of masterly arranging skills in which even small missteps mar the landscape.

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