3rd in a row Cuneiform Records weekend deal I couldn't turn down (thanks again, guys!) and my 2nd album by this Swiss quintet (alto and tenor sax, trombone, tuba and drums). Again, a highly entertaining mixture of jazz, funk, swampy marching band, world music and more.
Favorite track: Escape of the Fire Ants.
Harry Lime, the charming but dastardly anti-hero in the classic 1949 film noir The Third Man, famously dissed Switzerland saying “they had brotherly love, they had 500 years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.” The renegade Swiss quintet Le Rex isn’t making up for lost time, but there’s an urgency and creative ferocity to their music that would make Lime reconsider his unfair denigration. Featuring four expert horn players and drums, the band is a rising force on the European music scene, with an irresistibly grooving sound honed on the street and designed for maximum impact in clubs and concert halls.
Le Rex’s fourth album 'Escape of the Fire Ants' is the band’s most confident and cohesive, marked by consistently compelling compositions, careening melodies and thick, lapidary harmonies. It’s cosmopolitan music drawing on far-flung influences and connections to Chicago, Belgrade, Cape Town, New Orleans, and Lagos. Rather than flaunting an eclectic palette, Le Rex transmutes its source material into seamless original works reflecting the group’s singular collection of personalities. Featuring German-born alto saxophonist Benedikt Reising, tenor saxophonist Marc Stucki, trombonist Andreas Tschopp, tuba player extraordinaire Marc Unternährer, and drummer Rico Baumann, Le Rex reflects the fundamental strength that flows from musicians who’ve put in the time to forge deep ties on and off the bandstand.
Street smart and road-tested, ferociously grooving and lyrically charged, intricately arranged and spontaneously generated, Le Rex’s music contains multitudes. With 'Escape of the Fire Ants', the band is on the march.
"This young charismatic Swiss ensemble surges forward by melding modern sounds with New Orleans-based traditional jazz and hip groove-building pulses and perpetual motion, executed with manifold time signatures and soaring unison choruses. On its fourth album and second for Cuneiform Records, the musicians' sense of purpose transfers into your listening space as you can detect lots of smiles and conviction emanating from the band's memorable hooks, shifting themes and forceful overtones.
Essentially, their seamless integration of trad jazz during several passages is developed into futuristic spins on the roads frequently traversed amid interweaving layers, thrusting progressive jazz soloing and worldly invocations, transferring the listener from Bourbon Street into a customized soundstage. Interspersed with temperate balladry, often rendered with soulful and searching lines, the quartet even embarks on a barrelhouse and gutsy romp on the medium-tempo, bumping and grinding, "Harry Stamper Saves The Day." Here, Andreas Tschopp's ballsy trombone solo is peppered by the band's anchor, tubaist Marc Unternährer.
The undeniable synergy and somewhat rebellious mode of operations conveyed by these young lads add to the entertaining musicality that they bring to the table via knotty and intricately designed compositions. "Elliott's Theme" is built on a circular motif, teeming with numerous contrasts and thematic inventions with a few smoothing out processes by the warm and sonorous horns. The quartet's momentum spirals into a popping opus, spotted with curvy and geometric stylizations.
Other tracks feature funk-driven advancements, symmetrical storylines and lots of counterpoint, often accelerated or softened by the frontline's hard-charging solos atop Unternährer's pumping low-end support and contrapuntal interactions. Indeed, this is a production that offers elevated musicianship, charm and wit, broadened by an entertainment factor that should appeal to mainstream and progressive jazz aficionados alike." – Glenn Astarita / All About Jazz
released April 5, 2019
Benedikt Reising - Alto Saxophone
Marc Stucki - Tenor Saxophone
Andreas Tschopp - Trombone
Marc Unternährer - Tuba
Rico Baumann - Drums
Produced by Le Rex.
Recorded and mixed by Julien Fehlmann at Studio Mécanique, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland.
Mastered by André Pousaz.
Collage by Sean Smith.
Artwork by Salzmann & Gertsch.