I had never met Le Rex before, in spite of the fact that Escape Of The Fire Ants is their fourth outing. Technical prowess and overall maturity are nearly puzzling as one takes a look at the promo pictures: these gentlemen are young, apparently unpretentious, wide open eyes pointing at a surrounding world that has been giving a hard time to concepts like “liveliness” and “recreation”.
But this combo from Switzerland (Benedikt Reising, alto sax; Marc Stucki, tenor sax; Andreas Tschopp, trombone; Marc Unternährer, tuba; Rico Baumann, drums) produces music that makes one wonder about the mathematics of an odd tempo while eliciting a strange urge to tap the foot in a sort of “inside dance”. For good measure they design clear-cut melodies, intertwining them within a thoroughly comprehensible counterpoint redolent of too many influences to list.
Make no mistake, though: this is not easy listening. The solos can be wicked; some of the vamps may even suggest a vague resemblance to Frank Zappa’s “Waka/Jawaka” (or evoke your deranged march band of choice, for that matter). The risk, for every ensemble whose expression revolves around wind instruments, is an excessive homogeneity in terms of general sonority. Le Rex overcome the dangers of ho-humness through the very approach to the performance, which is spirited to say the least. Not a surprise to learn that they often record pieces in public areas: the “erudite busker” method pays dividends.
Managing to connect intelligibility and complexity in style, the group will have you struggling to place this album in a definite genre, although a strong jazz component is obvious. This writer played with his own imagination, fantasizing on a string quintet’s rendering of tracks such as the relatively swinging “Harry Stamper Saves The Day” or “Bändumeh Landing”. In a nutshell, take Le Rex for what they are: brilliant composers and instrumentalists offering a wholehearted bravura to whoever wants to spend a few moments without thinking too much of the whats and the whys, and just relax with a nice CD.