Out of France comes a recording by Eric Schultz and his full-bodied quintet that is pleasing, solid, educated. The Space and Time Ensemble has configured a traditionally oriented recording that has its roots in various styles, predominantly the fast pace of bebop, mixed with a blast or two of dissonance and a cupful of blues.
The quintet includes Schultz on electric guitar, Jean Michel Couchet on alto & soprano sax, Daniel Casimir on trombone (muted once), Alan Jones on drums and Paul Imm on double bass. All of the musicians are excellent players. Schultz takes the lead in several cuts but more often winds in and out of the harmonies constructed with the alto and trombone. The drumming is crisp, delicate and persistently rhythmic. And Imm on bass does some wonderful solos in which the pizzicatos are nothing but bent pitches.
Schultz on guitar establishes lovely lilting lines in two ballads, CHAMPIGNY and SHADOWS THAT SPEAK. In both, Schultz is joined by Couchet, on soprano and alto, respectively, who molds and shapes the line in his own way extending a texture originally laid out with the guitar. In the latter tune, the trombone plays a role in rounding off the unity of the horn choruses which swell in and out of the piece around the drums and bass line.
The strongest work is PLAIN 2 C. It has a heavy rhythmic theme that is the continual backdrop initially for a prolonged trombone solo. Each instrument has its say over the stretching trombone phrasings. The alto takes over at one point with a model set of arpeggiations. The guitar and the bass maintain a fullness in the background; the drums hiss and rumble delicately to keep the tempo. A guitar solo inherits the alto's line and then proceeds in a conversation with the drums whence is re-introduced the heavy rhythmic theme that the quintet spreads out temporally and sonorously until the close.
The last work speaks the most bebop of any cut. The alto begins as the lead instrument on this one and then the guitar improvises on the theme in clear articulations. This progresses to a scratchy trombone solo which itself leads to a bass pizz solo, overlapped by the barely there sound of the drums. An "orchestral" statement of the theme finishes the piece.
Overall, this recording has integrity. Schultz's compositions are firm in their freedom within the limits he establishes for himself. It is not extremely exploratory, but that is due to its inherent nature.