Sébastien Jarrousse Tentet featuring Ellinoa ‘New Frequency’ CD (A.MA) 2/5

French saxophonist Sébastien Jarrousse’s latest album, ‘New Frequency’, features a Franco-German ensemble of ten musicians with compositions which have taken influences from genres ranging from Fusion, Funk, Pop and Jazz. Known for playing both Tenor and Soprano sax, Jarrousse opted to play only Soprano on these sessions recorded over two years. Sole vocalist, Ellinoa’s ethereal timbre is more grounded in Pop, bearing similarities with the operatic Kate Bush and the sensitive Björk. The English lyrics are mostly indecipherable, but their delivery feels generally charismatic. Occasionally, she does not quite reach the band’s note, but this adds to what feels like a spontaneous and live album.

There is a 70s mysticism to the horn section sound, and it contrasts nicely with the vibrant rhythm section of electric guitar (Jonas Vogelsang), electric bass (Stefan Rey), drums (Nicolas Fox), percussion (Dogan Poyraz) and keys (Thibault Gomez). Specifically, the conga rhythms of Poyraz elevate the excitement when they appear.

Regarded as one of France’s best saxophonists Sébastien opens the album by paying homage to rockers Radiohead with the slightly tedious ‘Tribute to Radiohead’, which begins with a Rhodes keys riff more reminiscent of Bryan Ferry’s on ‘2 H.B’ by Roxy Music.

Second track ‘Monolithe 1’, feels a little chaotic and brash at times and the stagnant bassline combined with repeated generic wah guitar riff make for a lacklustre 6 minutes, something you can imagine hearing in an old B movie. ‘Pegaze 51’ instantly feels like a better arranged song, smooth vocals and a horn section complete with funky break. Jarrousse simmers away nicely here, weaving in and out of this electric orchestra before the suitably bombastic and synthy crescendo end.

The high-octane ‘Cuban Native’ sees the band playing at break-neck pace, except for Ellinoa, whose elongated melodies tend to sound out of sync with the song’s energetic and funky vibe, until the angelic harmonies of the outro.

‘Camelot Project’ begins with a James Brown vocal sample from Nikitch on the turntables, before the disco fusion arrives with Ellinoa now getting into the soulful mood and singing sensually in French. It has a beguiling effect in its repetitious groove.

Sébastien reappears for the middle-eastern introduction soliloquy of ‘The Three Waves’ before some slow neo-soul ambience provides a sparse backing for a fantastic, sauntering trumpet solo from David Heiss.

At times on ‘Burn Out’, the groove feels lost and the amount of instrumental voices and layers gets overwhelming, leaving one a little burnt out.

The last track is the forgettable ‘Mr JM’, the odd lyrics reference Icarus of Greek mythology: ‘Obsessing over light my friend, A moth you meet your burning end, As long as you won’t comprehend, These words of truth: die and become’. ‘New Frequency’, as an album, is about as interesting as its baffling lyrics.

Fred Neighbour