Stéphane Mercier, a Belgian-born, New York-based alto saxophonist and composer, makes a strong showing on this all-original disc. His music, brought to life here by an eight-piece band, is enormously complex yet irrepressibly playful and funky. Pianist Vincent Bourgeyx doubles on Rhodes and Hammond organ, and guitarist Thomas Gromaire provides just the right amount of warped rock & roll excess. Tenor saxophonist Melvin Butler and trumpeter Philippe Thomas join Mercier to complete the horn section, while bassist Mark Zubek, drummer Darren Beckett, and percussionist Renato Thoms fill out the rhythm section. Leading off the disc is the toe-tapping funk of "Night Meanderings," followed by the frenetic odd meters of "WGZFM." The attention-grabbing play list continues with "Half Moon," a pounding half-time rock groove that returns later as "Fool Moon." The title track, an elegant and brief horn chorale, sets up the highly involved swing chart "She Sells Sea Shells." Onward with the equally inventive "Fits and Starts," with an overdubbed flute background and subtle organ comping, followed by Gromaire's "Avenue A," a sensual tune in a kind of Caribbean 12/8 (and the only track not written by Mercier). The romantic "Samsara" and the previously mentioned "Fool Moon" close out the record, the former giving bassist Zubek a chance to solo. Zubek's hearty sound plays a big role on this superb yet peculiar album, which is similar in spirit to his own Horse With a Broken Leg.
Flor de Luna Review
by David R. Adler