Mulo Francel: Crossing Life Lines

As the artist, we’ve got to give Francel the benefit of the motivation behind this album (which is noble): the German saxophonist, clarinettist and composer was touring the Czech Republic and Poland, and met loads of nice people, leaving him wondering how he could personally deal with the suffering caused by his grandfathers’ generation? Did he need to address it? Did he need to apologise?

In the end he’s made a mighty fine jazz album, using 11 musicians from Germany, Austria, Poland and Czech Republic mixing originals, jazz standards and classical compositions in an album that celebrates that borders, closed for many decades during the Cold War, are now open.

Whatever his motivation, it makes no difference to the listener, who just gets a very good album. The bulk of it is clearly jazz, an easy to listen to, mostly fast flowing and melodic set of tunes. Some of the playing is fantastic but it never diverts from the flow of the music, whose main aim is to entertain and not act as showcase for any individual talent, though it does showcase the diversity of music.

Opener is Valse Du Bohémien, upbeat and cheery. Ada’s Song, which follows, is more late night and smoky nightclub, a tune to dance to; we’re guessing Hello Dolly has been deliberately pilfered here, and think Polish vibraphonist Izabella Effenberg is to the fore. There’s a touch of the Stéphane Grappelli in this song, as well as others.

So far so standard jazz but what makes this good is the influx of music from other places: Jerome Kern’s Look For The Silver Lining seems to combine dub reggae with slick jazz – not something we thought we’d ever write – while Schaschlik has a definite Eastern European feel. The Rabbi From Namyslów should be Polish but sounds more bossa nova – maybe that’s what you get when you cross jazz and Eastern European Jewish tunes – while Wiosna (Polish for spring) opens with mbira before becoming a more modern funky jazz tune, almost acid jazz. The album ends with Fredinand´s Prelude, a song based on Chopin’s E-minor Prelude but played – and this comes as no surprise after what precedes it – in rumba-style, with a Jelly Roll Morton piano interlude.

A fine and very enjoyable album, out now on Glm Music.

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