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The first thing that strikes you about Félix Zurstrassen’s album is the density of the band’s sound, which is as fleshy and ductile as you could wish for.

It has to be said that the bassist-leader has surrounded himself with companions who each possess a personal sound that contributes to the collective work, while at the same time individualizing themselves in the course of magnificently constructed solos.

They are perfectly integrated into the compositions – all by the leader – which are interesting and coherent in their sequence, making “Elusive” appear as an opus with both varied and homogeneous contours. The title of the last track, “Epilogue”, confirms this desire to conceive the CD as a narrative, with each short chapter telling a story.

The international personnel on “Elusive” also demonstrate a desire to develop a distinctive sound. In France, we are familiar with the refined playing of Brazilian guitarist Nelson Veras, who has been living in our country for many years. We’re probably less familiar with British pianist Kit Downes, whose delicate touch and voluble phrasing make a major contribution to the album’s appeal.

The rest of the band is made of two Belgian and a Dutch musicians whose renown has long since spread beyond the borders of their country. Ben van Gelder‘s alto sound is gentle on the slower tempos, and more pugnacious on the faster pieces.

Antoine Pierre, often leader of his own projects when he’s not sideman as he is here, is one of Europe’s most prominent drummers, and his melodic yet tonic playing is an asset in any band he plays with.

As for Félix Zurstrassen, who asserts himself here as a first-rate leader and composer, he is also an excellent practitioner of the electric bass, an instrument he puts at the service of the music without ever seeking to pull the wool over his eyes or display his virtuosity as a soloist.

All in all, this is a remarkable album by musicians we can’t wait to hear live.

Line up :

Félix Zurstrassen: electric bass, composition

Ben van Gelder: alto sax

Nelson Veras: guitar

Kit Downes: piano

Antoine Pierre: drums

Elusive was released by Igloo Records on February 9, 2024

©Photo Header, Maël G. Lagadec

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