2-disc set imported from France.
If Label Bleu operate with anything like a 'house band', Texier's Azur Quintet is it. Glenn Ferris, Tony Rabeson, Bojan Zulfikarpasic and Texier's son Sebastien have all recorded elsewhere for the label but they all continue to perform/record for the Azur Quintet some ten years after their excellent debut recording An Indians Week.
It's a sign of the quality of the work done by this group that Label Bleu have rewarded Texier with the budget to record a two disc set with strings. The Ensemble De Cordes De L'Orchestre De Bretagne, are deployed in a fluid way, interacting with the quintet rather than laying down a static background. The arrangements by Claude Bartelemy are reminiscent of the work of Colin Towns and bring together jazz and strings very successfully, sometimes creating a mood, sometimes highlighting the end of a phrase but always lithe and engaging.
Anyone worried by the presence of the strings need not as the Quintet itself is in excellent form and Texier's new compositions stand up with some of his best. One of the Bassist's often used devices is to meld a melancholy theme with something more uplifting which gives his group the chance to show their cohesiveness as they negotiate the changes and permits the soloists the chance to develop a little narrative drive. This is most evident on Serious Seb where Sebastien Texier takes a mournful bass clarinet solo before it dissolves into an up tempo kalimba like section.
The first disc consists of a series of pieces dedicated to the members of the quintet - the aforementioned piece for Sebastien Texier and B.Z. The Bee for the pianist, Bojan Zulfikarpasic are particularly strong, the latter featuring what surely must be the most robust bass pulse in jazz.
The second disc opens with a revisit to the title track of Texier's 1988 album Colonel Skopje, which gets the full orchestral treatment before plunging into Sacrafice, a long freeish piece, taking squalling strings, some ragged brass and some excellent solos.