The Wetter Quartet

Ring Ring

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The kooky Relax ay-voo label of Pau breaks down and uses a jewel case for packaging this 2005 release from the Wetter Quartet, cover art including funny color photographs of the bandmembers getting punched in their eyes, save for vocalist Clemence Pantaignon, who gets a knee in the face for her efforts. The visuals are reminiscent of '60s rockers clowning around but the opening track brings to mind somewhat later music, as in the so-called "fake jazz" of the early '80s New York downtown sound. Drummer Jerome Renault puts it down smoothly in terms of swinging, but the guitarist simply identified as Ryan R. comes on like an agitated Jim Hall trying to get out of a pair of handcuffs during a solo. The Wetter Quartet's music expands during the eight-song, 30-minute Ring Ring, going well beyond the somewhat boring and irritating stylistic limitations of bands such as the Lounge Lizards. The vocalist's approach is in pulling big things out of what seems like a small voice; she is quite natural and unpretentious, in the end a perfect contrast to the skilled musicians accompanying her. Cedric Prive is superb, especially on violin, and bassist Pierre Dutrey works in tight synchronization with his drumming partner through transitions that include the aforementioned modern jazz as well as klezmer, rock & roll, ballads, and even a touch of country & western. "Acid Test" adds a saxophonist for an arrangement that jags back and forth out of free jazz uproar. All the pieces are original with the exception of a French cover version of "Blue Moon."