A 25-year veteran of the European touring circuit despite not yet being 40 years old, French guitarist Renaud Louis-Servais shows inherent seasoning on his self-titled quartet's new Iluna debut. The crafty leader most recently performed and practiced with his rhythm section of Henri Dorina (bass) and Alain Bidot-Naude (drums) for 10 years before adding keyboardist/trumpeter Franck Guicherd and entering the studio.
Iluna illustrates both the chemistry and trust between the talented quartet's members, allowing Louis-Servais to wear his formidable rock and fusion influences on his sleeve. His opening three-song cycle spans 24 minutes, with Theme d'Iluna leading off. Guicherd's atmospheric synthesizer intro leads to several rhythmic shifts by Dorina and Bidot-Naude as the guitarist's use of sustain echoes Gary Moore and Steve Vai.
Euria, part two of the cycle, downshifts into a 6/8-timed cadence that showcases Louis-Servais' clean-toned rhythm playing and soloing. Guicherd shows his dexterity by playing a trumpet solo (as well as keyboard parts on both acoustic and Fender Rhodes electric pianos), and Dorina effortlessly switches from fretless bass back to fretted for part three, the classically-influenced Chani (with a chanted intro by Djamila Ghilani, the only vocal on an otherwise instrumental disc).
Guicherd sticks to acoustic piano on Pat, since Louis-Servais provides the plugged-in textures on guitar synthesizer in a salute to Pat Metheny. The leader also shows glimpses of John McLaughlin, Allan Holdsworth and Scott Henderson throughout, yet still manages to display his own style as both a player and composer. Gimmick is anything but, featuring a rollicking rhythmic undercurrent, boogie-woogie piano accompaniment by Guillaume Roussel, and banner solos and trades between Louis-Servais and saxophonist Alessandro Nocco.
The saxophonist returns for the tranquil La Quete de Roland, which spotlights Louis-Servais' acoustic guitar finesse, and also for the closing Dom. After the core quartet lures the listener into a fiery, 7/8-timed Magnet 7, and hints at Jeff Beck on the atmospheric Pulse, Nocco rejoins the lineup to take Louis-Servais' final influential nod even further into the stratosphere.
On Dom, the guitarist's clean-toned chords introduce an insistent rhythmic pattern by Dorina and Bidot-Naude, plus accompanying textures by Guicherd and Nocco -- all of which help to build the thematic, whammy bar-driven epic. The feel here is reminiscent of Beck's 1980 CD There and Back, an appropriate theme for Louis-Servais' initial lunar mission.
Renaud Louis-Servais (guitars)
Franck Guicherd (keyboards/trumpet)
Henri Dorina (electric bass)
Alain Bidot-Naude (drums)
Alessandro Nocco (saxophone)
Guillaume Roussel (keyboards)
Djamila Ghilani (vocal)
1. Theme d'Iluna
2. Euria (Cycle de la Pluie)
3. Chani (Cycle du Desert)
6. La Quete de Roland
7. Magnet 7