John Hébert Byzantine Monkey

A Louisiana native, bassist John Hébert has played with such strong composers/performers as Fred Hersch, John Hollenbeck and Andrew Hill since his arrival on the New York scene. Byzantine Monkey testifies to his compositional strength, with a melodic sense inspired by the late Hill, Hébert's mentor until Hill's passing in 2007. The album opens with Hébert's assertive duet with a sample of Odile Falcon on "La reine de la salle," followed by a loose and gruff reading of the traditional melody by saxophonists Tony Malaby and Michaël Attias, graciously panned right and left, respectively. "Reine de la salle" and "Acrid Landscape" showcase strong interaction amongst the reeds, joined on occasion by Adam Kolker on bass clarinet and flute, and drummer Nasheet Waits and percussionist Satoshi Takeishi. Both are active, yet Waits's chattering snare leaves space for Takeishi's dumbek and metallic percussion. Hébert is the link between the two sections of the band. Byzantine Monkey is a strong debut of a new band of old colleagues. (Firehouse 12)