The third release from France's Forgas Band Phenomena, titled Soleil 12, is four songs of rich, captivating, and exploratory Canterbury styled fusion. Led by drummer Patrick Forgas (who recorded projects in the 70's & 80's with members of Magma and Zao), this big band ensemble of eight players will instantly remind you of 70's groups like National Health, Hatfield & the North, Soft Machine, Gilgamesh, Bruford, Caravan, as well as American acts like Frank Zappa and Miles Davis. All instrumental, these songs flow and soar, with biting solos and symphonic full band arrangements that are melodic and instantly memorable. The album was recorded live at France's Le Triton club in early 2005, a venue that now showcases many progressive rock and fusion acts.
The band that Forgas has put together includes drums, guitar, keyboars, bass, violin, two sax players, and a trumpet/flugelhorn player. From the raging fusion sounds of the opening title track, to the more laid back and melodic progressive jazz of the monster epic "Coup De Théâtre", this is some seriously inventive stuff. The skill of the players is extemely high throughout the CD. The weaving violin/sax/trumpet melodies on "Coup De Théâtre" for example are just scrumptuous, with the busy underpinning of Forgas' drum work and the meaty guitar chords and solos of Sylvain Ducloux providing the perfect foil. "Eclipse" is more in a progressive rock style, with intricate keyboard textures from Igor Brover laying the groundwork for Frederic Norel's soaring lead violin, which reminded me of Jean Luc Ponty's 70's work, that is until Sylvain Gontard's horn joined the mix for a spot of pure jazz. The dual sax melodies from Stranislas De Nussac and Denis Guicarc'h are the catalyst for "Pievre à la Pluie", a near 19-minute venture into atmospheric prog-rock and Canterbury styled fusion. Here, the rhythm work of Forgas and bassist Kengo Mochizuki work overtime, with guitarist Ducloux laying down some funky chords, while the reeds take center stage. It times the music gets pretty complex on this one, with the whole band really grooving and in synch with each other.
As usual, Cuneiform Records comes up with another winner. 70 minutes of prime fusion is a good reason to celebrate, and the Forgas Band Phenomena deliver the goods in a big way. One of the best fusion releases of the year!
1) Soleil 12 (9:22)
2) Coup De Théâtre (34:47)
3) Éclipse (8:16)
4) Pievre à la Pluie (18:18)