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Mocca Swing

ACT 6020-2 (2 CD Set)




CD1 : Mulo Francel Quartet Recordings

  1. Aphrodisia

  2. Mocca Swing

  3. Laqueur

  4. Sunshine In A Honeypot

  5. Pixinguinha

  6. Atahualpa

  7. Retrospective On A Broken Man

  8. Polka Dots And Moonbeams

    Mulo Francel - Tenor saxophone, clarinet

    David Gazarov - Piano

    Sven Faller - Bass

    Robert Kainar - Drums

    CD2 : Orchestra Works

  1. Everything That Was

  2. Mocca Swing

  3. Flying Carpet

  4. Robert's Waltz

  5. Die Abenteurer

  6. Poet In Italia

  7. Goethe sulla strada

  8. Serenade For Young Lovers

  9. Taquito Militar

  10. Misty

    Mula Francel - Clarinet (track 3), soprano sax, whistling (track 5), C-Melody sax (tracks 1, 7), tenor sax (tracks 2, 4, 6, 8-10)

    The Munich Radio Orchestra:

    Enrique Ugarte - Conductor, accordion (track 6)

    Quadro Nuevo:


    Andreas Hinterseher - Accordion (track 7) bandoneon (track 9)

    Evelyn Huber - Harp (track 7)

    Chris Gall - Piano (track 9)

    D.D. Lowka - Bass (tracks 7, 9, 10)

    Café del Mundo :

    Jan Pascal, Alex Kilian - Spanish guitars (track 10)

    Paulo Morello - Guitar (tracks 4, 5)

    Max Klaas - Percussion (track 3)

    David Gazarov - Piano (tracks 1-3, 5, 6)

    Sven Faller - Bass (tracks 1-5)

    Robert Kainar - Drums (tracks 1-5)

    Mulo Francel is a name new to me but on the evidence of this recording he stands in a revered line of musicians such as Ben Webster, Lester Young and (a present day example) Scott Hamilton. Francel can play a range of reed instruments with equal facility. The German saxophonist and composer is well-known in his native land as a founder member of the world music group, Quadro Nuevo. Francel inherited a love of jazz (and an extensive collection of jazz recordings) from his late father. He had previously recorded a double CD for ACT entitled Echoes Of Swing : A Tribute To Bix Beiderbecke, in company with three other musicians. This occasion marks the formation of a new quartet, to be heard on the first disc, and a collaboration with the Munich Radio Orchestra plus a group of friends, on the second. The other quartet members prove worthy associates for the adventurous Francel. David Gazarov, born in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, is on piano. That eclectic musician Sven Faller, part of the German band Trio Elf, who has added to his experience by undertaking studies in New York, is on bass. Robert Kainar, a significant figure on the Austrian jazz scene, plays drums.

    The quartet recordings and the orchestral works alike have much to commend them. The material on the first CD consists of three Francel compositions, two by Faller, one by Gazarov, an arrangement based on a piece by Chopin, and a Jimmy van Heusen standard. The results are consistently good. I especially warmed to Gazarov's Sunshine In A Honeypot, where a romantic ballad is played with sensitivity and charm by the group members. Not far behind is Polka Dots And Moonbeams, characterised by a certain lushness of tone on tenor by Francel, reminiscent of Ben Webster. This is mellow music from the quartet with a classy bass solo from Sven Faller. But while mentioning stand-outs, I musn't forget the title track, Mocca Swing. This one has everything. True to its name, it is a swinger. There is humour, musicianship and even a touch of Klezmer. Listen for notable work on percussion. A bonus is that there is an excellent video of the quartet playing this particular number, a Francel original, available on YouTube. Pretty well everything on the first disc works, from the easy on the ear Aphrodisia, the wistful Laqueur (Francel on clarinet), through the jauntiness and Latin rhythms of Pixinguinha, to France's Atahualpa, where Gazarov swings with abandon amidst skilled interplay between bass and drums. That leaves only Retrospective On A Broken Man of the quartet's offering. Arranged by Garazov, the piece is a paraphrase of Frederic Chopin's Etude in e flat minor op.10 # 6. There is superlative playing by the arranger, matched by Francel's impassioned tenor.

    The CD of orchestral works, whilst still appealing, is not quite up to the standard of the quartet on their own. Having said that, Mocca Swing easily lives up to the level of performance on the first disc, this time with the considerable fire and light afforded by the Munich Radio Orchestra. Poet In Italia is a further highlight. The conductor, Enrique Ugarte, guests beautifully on accordion and the supporting musicians move smoothly through the gears. There is much to admire, also, in the lively Everything That Was, and Flying Carpet which has an Eastern sensibility to it and which adds Max Klaas to the percussion roster. Robert's Waltz, which benefits from the guitar of Paulo Morello, draws out an intricate and, at times poignant, performance on tenor from Francel. On Die Abenteurer, Mulo is credited not only with soprano sax but with whistling! The last time I heard whistling to such good effect was on Round Midnight, a track on an album where Robert Wyatt had teamed up with Gilad Atzmon and Ros Stephen. That was some years ago so perhaps we are due a revival of the art. In any event, Francel here contributes, in addition, a fluent and quirky extended solo on the soprano sax. The final track, Erroll Garner's Misty, has Francel on tenor and bassist D.D. Lowka on bass, joined by the guitarists who make up the flamenco duo, Café del Mundo, Jan Pascal and Alex Kilian. The guests, the orchestra and the leader's consummate tenor playing, together do justice to the standard.

    There were three tracks which were less to my taste.The boisterous Goethe sulla strada, where Mulo plays the C-Melody sax, for me resembled a novelty number. Serenade For Young Lovers, with tenor sax and orchestra, I rated a tad whimsical. Even the tango Taquito Militar did not engage as much as previous material. Perhaps these examples were less successful because they owed more to the light music tradition than to jazz. Yet these are minor cavils, set against the overwhelmingly positive impression this two CD set makes on the listener. Mulo Francel is clearly a force to be reckoned with as a performer, arranger and composer. If swing is your thing, you're in safe hands here.

    James Poore


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