Saturday, June 15, 2019

Le Rex - Escape of the Fire Ants (Cuneiform, 2019)

Le Rex is an up and coming Swiss jazz quintet with an interesting lineup of reeds, brass and drums: Benedikt Reising on alto saxophone, Marc Stucki on tenor saxophone, Andreas Tschopp on trombone, Marc Unternährer on tuba and Rico Baumann on drums. This may put you in the mind of a New Orleans marching group, and that is a strand of their DNA, but they run the length and breadth of jazz leaning into progressive and free sounds as well. The opener “Escape of the Fire Ants” muscles in with strong riffing horns and crisp drumming, with the tuba admirably developing a bass like sound and the other musical instruments becoming stratified above it. The horns play together in an admirable manner, developing call and response sequences and solo flights that are enthusiastically supported. The drummer develops a nasty funk beat under one of the soloing saxophones that is very exciting and propels the performance forward. The group allows dynamism to come into play with a more open section that allows for spacious and thoughtful playing, bouncing up to the opening riff to give the performance an exciting conclusion. “Alimentation Générale” is whimsical in nature, developing a colorful weave of instruments, and the sound is very nice with individual instruments emerging from each channel of the stereo, creating an immersive sound that is compelling to hear as the trombone and drums develop some really interesting rhythms for the other instruments to solo over, creating sparks between the players that lead to excellent improvised sections. “Harry Stamper Saves the Day” hits with raw and exciting tenor saxophone and splashy drumming that is quite enthralling, the rest of the group comes in with strong and invigorating riffs and motifs that take the music in a little more light hearted and swinging direction. A ripe and brash trombone solo framed by drums and tuba holds down the middle section of the performance. There is a low and burrowing groove on “The Funding,” with quick bursts of fanfare popping off and leading into a sweaty club scene where the band is digging in deep and playing with style. “Ballad for an Optimist” begins in a forlorn manner with the horns paying their respects in a humble manner, gradually picking up the pace to another fine trombone solo at a medium up pace with the tuba and drums nipping at his heels and saxophones framing the action. Everyone is working together well to build an exciting performance with a memorable melody and well structured arrangements and playing. Overall, this was a very enjoyable album by a band that bears watching. There is a fine consistency in the quality of their playing, creating music of substance that is capable of wide gradations in sensation and texture. Escape Of The Fire Ants -

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