with Karl Berger


Jazz Beyond Jazz

Sylvain Leroux, featuring Karl Berger, Quatuor Créole (Completely Nuts Records). Leroux is a French Canadian reeds specialist living in New York City who has devoted himself particularly to the tambin, or Fula flute, a traditional three-holed (but amazingly expansive) instrument from West Africa. His past recordings have him in company with Malian Bailo Bah, whom he rightly calls the Jimi Hendrix of Fula flutes, but here he collaborates with vibist-pianist Karl Berger, in whose Improvisers Orchestra Leroux has had a role, as well as percussionist Sergo Décius and bassist Matt Pavolka. Several of the ten tracks demonstrate a mellifluous acoustic quality and are cyclical as chants, but the nearly 12-minute “fantaisie créole,” for which Leroux switches to a conventional Western flute, has as an episodic structure with an introduction that touches on classicism; there’s also one piece overdubbed for compositional purposes. For variety Leroux vocalizes with or otherwise overblows on his tambin, picks up an alto sax and dozon ngoni (hunter’s harp), gives Décius and Pavolka their moments and also Berger, whose vibes attack is metallically percussive, whose piano playing has warmth and lightness.

By Howard Mandel—August 24, 2012




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