In 1998, tenor saxophonist Jean Christopher Béney released his first CD as a leader and titled it Tenor Joke. It was recorded "live" at the Duc des Lombards in France with Pierre de Bethmann on piano, Clovis Nicolas on double bass, and Benjamin Hénocq on drums. Since his debut as a leader, Béney has enjoyed international acclaim as a composer and instrumentalist with such great jazz musicians as François Théberg, David Patrois, and the Paris Jazz Big Band on top of his activities as an educator, and his fans around the globe have come to recognize that his tenor sax playing is no joke. On Cassiopee, his second release as a leader, Béney is accompanied once again by Clovis Nicolas on double bass; reunites with his longtime collaborator, pianist Laurent Coq; and includes Philippe Soirat on drums, all of whom may be familiar to Béney's listeners due to their work with Stefano Di Batista, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ray Brown, and Bruce Barth. Cassiopee is a brilliant work comprised of nine songs in a variety of forms. Seven of the originals were written by Jean Christopher Béney and pianist Laurent Coq contributed "David's Mood." Béney's art form has never sounded better. On the title track, his fresh, harmonic concepts bear some resemblance to his classical influences and visions; however, it is his top-to-bottom command of the tenor saxophone's dynamic voice that pulls his listeners into his inner circle of musical progressions. Beney's tone is pure, at times melancholy (as on the ballad "Swee' Pea"), but always melodic, harmonic, and beautifully improvised. Among the CD's many splendid highlights are his lustrous countermelodies and striking polytonal chords that anticipate the rhythmically freer bass sound of Clovis Nicolas. On "Khéops," one of the telling virtues of Philippe Soirat's eclecticism is his ability to propel the ensemble with his swinging tempo without radically altering his melodic style of drumming. Overall, Cassiopee is a self-assertive effort that sounds very comfortable in its many musical moods. In contrast to Tenor Joke, it shows that the Jean Christopher Béney quartet can entertain at any tempo and in any form.
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AllMusic Review by Paula Edelstein