Friday, August 17, 2012

Francois Houle: Genera

Francois Houle (clarinet)
Genera (Songlines Recordings; 2012)
Samuel Blaser (trombone)
Harris Eisenstadt (drums)
Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet)
Michael Bates (bass)
Benoit Delbecq (piano)

Genera is a bit of a return to the modern focus of Francois Houle's earlier '00s outings with his group +5. A group that consist of revolving musicians (including frequent collaborator Benoit Delbecq). While maintaining a clear jazz focus, Houle has deployed his usual adventure with improvised themes throughout this session.

"Essay #7" rips and rattles along with a sense of urgency and jubilation. Eisenstadt and Bates secure a pounding pace, as the horns improvise all over the scale. All this is lightly tempered by Delbecq's versatile style at the keys.

With "Guanara," Houle allows the sextet a whole lot of room to expand. Houle's tone is light, yet with multiple layers of complex changes. Conversations between Delbecq, Eisenstadt and Bates dart and jag across your senses quickly but with a real sense of grace. Houle, Bynum and Blaser return towards the end for rousing conclusion.

"Albatross" is that dark improvised piece that moves slowly with Bynum in excellent form. The horn section are the real stars on this piece, with all three men really screaming in delicate unison. Sounds contradictory but you really have to hear to understand the beauty.

On "Sulfur Dude," Houle's composition makes this sextet sound almost like a large ensemble. It starts from a very organic place and each musician adds other rhythmic element on top of lines. This in turn creates a harmonic structure that is striking as well enchanting. For me it's my favourite piece on Genera.

A return to more organic themes is the best way to describe Genera. And Francois Houle has shown once again his versatility as a composer, leader and musician. Genera is a departure from the more recent ambient/avant classical chamber material of his last outings. But its a value addition in understanding the artist. Highly Recommended.

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