The term "fusion" has come to (loosely) define many things over the years. Jazz fused with rock, funk, whatever (Weather Report, Yellowjackets), slickly produced easygoing jazz (Grant Geissman, Lee Ritenour), even some Quiet Storm/smooth jazz performers, etc. There’s another foray fusion has taken, that of our European brethren - cue Forgas Band Phenomena. Without making this an US vs. Them thing, the Europeans seem to be a bit more open to a greater variety influences (duh - jazz is more popular there than in the US of A).
Listening to the wonderfully diverse, panoramic Soleil 12, assorted aspects of jazz, rock, classical (19th and early 20th-century styles), film music come to the fore. But where a lesser posse of players might forgo subtlety, thereby blitzing the listener with lots of flashy technique, which the Forgas fellows have in spades, volume and whatnot, these Euros take a different tack.
The four lengthy tracks here, the shortest is eight minutes and the longest 34 minutes, feature distinct melodies and tight, urgent, almost suite-like arrangements vaguely recalling Frank Zappa and Carla Bley, which nonetheless give each player chances to strut their formidable stuff. There’s restraint, ebb and flow at work here. Forgas BF can be as diabolically busy as electric-era Bill Bruford, as groove-y as Brian Auger and soar with easy grace as Jean-Luc Ponty. They don’t fire on all cylinders all the time, soloing with focused lyricism, not ego. They don’t pound when they can soar.
There’s precious little "funk" in the American sense on Soleil 12. Maybe because they’re not Americans, but Europeans weaving aspects of their cultural heritage into their overall sound without sounding pompous or elitist. This dandy platter proves there’s plenty of possibilities left in the fusion realm. If you have ever embraced the electric sounds from across the pond, legendary prog-rockers PFM, Hatfield & the North, Matching Mole, and/or the proto-fusion works of Zappa, Ponty, Gary Burton or Gil Evans (circa early 1970s), the bracing, mostly harmonious Soleil 12 should be a priority.