Florian Pellissier Quintet ‘Cappe de Bonne Esperance’ CD/LP/DIG (Heavenly Sweetness) 4/5

florian-pellissier-quintetThe inspiration for this, the third album from the Florian Pellissier Quintet, came from a performance in July 2015 at the Jazz à Vienne festival to celebrate the music of the South African Sun record label (probably best known for releases by Dollar Brand). Pellissier composed some tracks for the gig, building on these with his fellow performers to create this album.
Don’t expect African jazz though as Pellissier used the occasion to inspire the group and to add a spiritual dimension to their work. The “Cape of Good Hope” serves also as a statement of intent, as a significant landmark or simply of as a note of optimism.
For those of you not familiar with the Quintet’s previous albums – “Le Diable et Son Train” (2012) or “Biches Bleues” (2014) the group is led by Florian Pellissier on piano, Christophe Panzani on saxophone, Yoann Loustalot on Trumpet, Yoni Zelnik on bass and David Georgelet on drums.
Their music is firmly rooted in the Blue Note hard bop style of 1960’s New York. This is no pastiche, no half-baked copy though. There is something wonderfully fluid about their music. The interplay between the musicians demonstrates an innate trust and chemistry, so that the group performs as a group, not just as a collection of individual egos.

The album covers a number of tempos, from the upbeat opener and “Les Masques Africains” with its funky drumming, to lazy, late night ballads like “Almeria”.

“La Forêt des biches bleues” is the highlight for me. It builds slowly; notes on piano and bass linger almost absent-mindedly, increasing anticipation and drawing in your senses. Bass, piano and cymbals grow in intensity and rhythm, before the full energy of the track is finally released in textured layers.

There are two covers, “The Hipster” and “What a Difference a Day Makes”. Whilst lacking the tempo and frantic flute of Harold McNair’s original the former is a creditable version. The album ends with the standard “What a Difference a Day Makes” featuring label mate, Leron Thomas. For me this is a disappointing finale. The only vocal track it feels out-of-place, lacking the creative spark that is evident elsewhere.

This slight criticism to one side, there is a great deal to enjoy and admire and I’m sure that this album will help consolidate the group’s growing reputation.

On a final point, I could not finish this piece without mentioning the great artwork designed by Jean-Louis Duralek.

Andy Hazell