Edmond Bilal Band ‘Starouarz’ (Jazz Family) 3/5

“Starouarz” is the debut album from an exciting quartet of musicians; Paul Robert on saxophones, Simon Chivallon on keyboards, Mathias Monseigne on bass, and Curtis Efoua on drums. Collectively they are Edmond Bilal Band.

Listening to their heady mix of contemporary jazz infused with electronica, dance, funk, roots and chill-out, it’s easy to see why they are in vogue on the European jazz circuit, their audacious energy spilling out from the instruments they play. On “Starouarz” they have created their very own atmosphere, with a unified voice most notably for a young quartet very comfortable with the musical direction they have chosen to take.

The general themes and styles presented on this session remind me of the kind of feel one gets when listening to the eclectic-electric music of Gaël Horellou or Ibrahim Maalouf. Edmond Bilal Band share that kind of energy, not afraid to move between hi-octane jazz and chilled atmospheric indulgence. The tunes shift pace effortlessly, with a grace and freedom that is incredibly refreshing.

This album is filled with delicious grooves and inventive ideas, the four musicians all integral to the overall sound of the band. Reverb fuelled sax mixes with uber-cool Rhodes, undulating drum-beats spin and weave against soft, percussive and interchangeable bass riffs. Hazy and dream-like soundscapes meet fiendishly intricate soloing. The music pumps, beats, dances and cajoles the listener into its very own life-force.

Lots going for it then. To my mind, however, putting on my critical hat for a moment, I do think the album is too long and maybe two or three of what could be deemed “filler” tracks could have been trimmed from the final album. Whilst at first the music seems to sparkle with originality and freshness, after a while it does become a little too familiar on some of the tunes. That said, this is a praiseworthy debut, and Edmond Bilal Band are definitely worth keeping an eye on. I look forward to hearing more from them in the future.

Mike Gates