Obvious parallels exist between William Parker’s Raining on the Moon group with vocalist Leena Conquest and Darius Jones’ new album, which features French singer Emilie Lesbros. Hallmarks of both: accessible avant-garde jazz, lyrical compositions and a seamless integration of a sympathetic unit and a vocalist who uses her voice as another instrument in the ensemble. Heck, they’re even on the same label, AUM Fidelity.
Le bébé de Brigitte is the fifth installment in the alto saxophonist’s Man’ish Boy saga, and it is his most mature yet. It comprises six pieces-four of them exceeding eight minutes-that showcase a variety of styles and skills. The pastoral opener, “Two Worlds, One Soul,” ranks as Jones’ most patient composition, a billowy piece that takes 10 minutes to unfold and allows Lesbros to reveal herself gradually. “Chanteuse in Blue” swings with a folksy melody that Parker himself could have written. Lesbros sings, talks, chirps, brays and makes other animal sounds as the rhythm section-pianist Matt Mitchell, bassist Sean Conly and drummer Ches Smith-gets into a deeper and deeper groove.
Jones doesn’t display his aggressive streak until the third track, “Universal Translator,” where he lets loose blasting over a dense, rolling rhythm. Two sensitive and mournful pieces, the epic “Beneath the Skin (we are already one)” and the ballad “I Can’t Keep From Weeping,” bring Lesbros’ searching, aching vocals to the fore as she flutters, bends notes and employs breathy café-music tricks; still, the latter features a searing Jones solo. The closer, “Quand Vient la Nuit,” is Lesbros’ composition and spotlight piece, and the album’s one truly weird tune. She sings, barks and plays piano-just slow arpeggios-while Jones squawks and Smith scrapes his cymbals. Le bébé de Brigitte is not only Jones’ finest disc yet but easily one of the best of 2015.Originally Published