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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



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E_L_B: PETER ERSKINE, NGUYEN LE, MICHEL BENITA

Dream Flight

The ACT Company ACT 9467-2

 

 



1. Dream Flight
2. Rotha & Priska
3. Jive Five
4. Song for Jaco
5, Twelve
6. Plan 9
7. Kokopanitsa
8. Romanichel
9. Montreal
10. Hanging Out on the Roofs
11. A Demain
 
 
Peter Erskine - Drums, timpani, percussion
Nguyen Le - Electric guitar
Michel Benita - Bass
Stephane Guillaume - Tenor sax, soprano sax
 

This trio - joined here by saxophonist Stephane Guillaume - is a very cosmopolitan group. Drummer Peter Erskine is an American; guitarist Nguyen Le was born in Paris to Vietnamese parents; and Michael Benita is Algerian, but moved to Paris in 1981. So you might expect a mixture of styles on this CD and that is what you get.

The exotic Asian feel of the title-track may reflect Nguyen's Vietnamese roots, with Stephane's soprano sax soaring to the skies. Rotha & Priska is grittier, with sax and guitar battling for supremacy. Jive Five is closer to the jazz-fusion that Erskine played when he was with Weather Report. Nguyen's guitar playing here is as adventurous as Jimi Hendrix, making the instrument scream and groan. On other tracks, Nguyen is more reminiscent of Pat Metheny, drawing similarly rich timbres from the guitar.

Peter Erskine's composition Song for Jaco is a pensive elegy, bringing Michael Benita's bass rightly to the fore, with the guitar lines suggesting the breadth of the sounds that Jaco Pastorius could make on his fretless bass. Erskine also wrote Twelve, a melody that wanders in unpredictable directions. Benita contributes a good solo, backed only by Erskine's subtle brushes. The mood in this and several other pieces is measured and spacious - in your ear but not in your face.

Another Erskine composition - Plan 9 - has Nguyen at his most Methenyesque but, again, the group leaves plenty of air for the music to breathe. Peter Erskine gets to do a drum solo which is well balanced. By contrast, Kokopanitsa is almost heavy metal, with Nguyen making the guitar speak authoritatively. Then comes another contrast: the slow-paced Romanichet, with an air of mystery accentuated by Guillaume's plaintive tenor sax.

Guillaume switches to soprano sax for Montreal, riding high above the firm bass-lines of composer Michel Benita. Guillaume wrote Hanging Out on the Roofs, with tenor sax and guitar strolling along happily together. The closing tune is another track that makes its point without ostentation but with abundant musicianship.

The whole CD is recorded clearly, with good balance and an airy feeling that fits the music well. Despite Nguyen Le's occasional moves into Hendrix country, this is an album whose appeal creeps up on you gradually - an appeal that only strengthens with each hearing.

Tony Augarde



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