, the title of the first track that gives its name to the album, lays the foundation for this music. The rhythm section, with leader and composer Piet Verbist slappin' the bass like a flag in the wind and drummer Herman Pardon, is fanning the embers from the start of a jazz-soul-funk fire which will soon ignite. After the exposition of a neo hard-bop theme as visceral as sophisticated, it is Bram Weijters who guides his electric piano with bright hand, feeding the funky beat before returning to the horns for a change of pace on the second half, dedicated to the flight of the saxophone. It's a brilliant piece, arranged with peerless precision, which continually redistributes its dynamics by subtle touches in a way that we don't feel the time slip for six minutes and a half of pure happiness.
In the wake of such an intense music, nothing could be better but a haven of peace and that is what The Beauty In The Beast brings, a dreamy theme favorable to an excellent soprano solo by Jeroen Van Herzeele whose lyricism is here found intact after so many libertarian explosions in other more free contexts.
This healthy groundwork of tension & release remains preserved throughout the repertory with a nifty series of edgy passages and smoother sequences (Witches Stew and Wheel C), sometimes within the same piece (Low Profile Giganticus). Among the most catchy themes, we will pin Aicha's Gift: a melody in Middle Eastern flavor offering the opportunity of a short breathtaking journey where electronics combined with baritone sax stretch the sound palette to the fringe of progrock. Or the dusky blues Double Trouble, designed to furnish an "after hours" liquor to a dull day, demonstrating that whoever is playing, this band manages to squirt soul. Or finally Zygomaticus Minor entirely assigned to a groove of subdued bass sounds of the baritone sax that would probably marvelously function as a disturbing soundtrack of a suspenseful thriller.
Recorded in Belgium and mixed in Seattle, the album has a clear and dynamic sound that benefits this accurate and vivid music. Already noted for his exemplary collaborations with Jef Neve, Ben Sluijs and Jan de Haas, today bassist Piet Verbist has become an exciting composer and a lucid leader who displays his belief in a modern and exhilarating jazz. Normal he named his band after the "smile muscles"!