Henri Texier Azur Quintet / Henri Texier

Strings' Spirit

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A two-CD set that barely exceeds the time limit of a single disc, Strings' Spirit puts Henri Texier's longstanding Azur Quartet in front of a 29-piece string orchestra with superb results. Among the many highlights: the snaky, personality-filled trombone of Glen Ferris, one of the unsung modern greats of the instrument; the powerful, vigorous, and compelling saxophone of Texier's son, the lesser-known S├ębastien Texier; the intricate writing of bassist Henri Texier, including arrangements for the strings that do not follow either of the customary paths of laying down plush carpets of sound or engaging solely in abstractions. Texier deliberately inserts the strings sparingly and as necessary, developing them as an extra voice for added color. The strings, performing mostly but not always as a collective, are not used to fuse genres, but to accent a purely jazz mode. They contribute importantly with percussive accents, power, and caressing melodies. For those who particularly appreciate the jazz trombone, the considerable length allotted Ferris should be, if not revelatory, at least thrilling, as he is given ample opportunity to shine. Ferris shows his two prominent sides: that of a raunchy gut-wrencher; and that of a soft and gentle teddy bear that whispers with precise intonation. Bojan Zulfikarpasic's piano cuts a more conventional mode, as does Henri Texier on bass, with the sound of the latter thumping its steady beat with impeccable precision.

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