Biography

Renown for their collaborations with such luminaries as Milton Nascimento and Yusef Lateef, Lionel and Stéphane Belmondo—the most famous siblings of French jazz—celebrate their artistic reunion. Leading an all-star quintet featuring Eric Legnini at the piano, the brothers salute their masters and synthesize a quarter of a century of musical adventures, inhabited by their unfailing memory and famed spirit.

Who hasn’t heard of the Belmondo brothers? Stéphane, flamboyant disciple of Chet Baker and Freddie Hubbard, one of the lyrical masters of his instrument, is among the most highly respected trumpet players on this side of the Atlantic. Lionel, the saxophonist, has been a tireless artisan of a greater synergy between different musical styles; merging the souls of Lili Boulanger and Yusef Lateef, combining Coltrane’s spirit with French liturgical traditions, and carrying the torch for jazz into the world of post-impressionistic classical music.

For over a quarter of a century these two exceptional musicians have undertaken an impressive number of musical adventures, always supported by the members of their quintet, who have followed the brothers in the course of their artistic explorations no matter in which direction it has taken them.

The Belmondo Quintet was founded at the end of the 1980s by Lionel and Stéphane, who have been musical partners since childhood. Rapidly, on stage and in re­cordings, the group made its mark on the French jazz scene, fervently defending the right to play a resolutely acoustic, intense and spiritual music that updated the modern jazz concepts developed by artists such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bill Evans and Wayne Shorter.

“Brotherhood” is only the fifth album the Belmondo Quintet has recorded in its career. It heralds the return to the recording studio for a group, which over the course of its rich and tumultuous existence has included a veritable who’s who of the French jazz world, and has been an exa­mple for several generations of French musicians. Arri­ving in Paris from their native Var region with their direc­tness, their strong accent, and their intensity both on and off the stage, the Belmondo brothers have been a major influence on French jazz, having refocused on the basics, working passionately and with a tireless gift for trans­mission both to musicians of their generation and the next one, reigniting the sputtering flame of a music that had sometimes strayed from its goal and its substance.

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Launched in their late teens, the quintet has been the main vehicle for this profession of faith. Among the mu­sicians who have regularly been a part of the group over the years, in chronological order; the pianists Philippe Milanta, Balthasar Thomass (now a philosopher), Henri Florens, Laurent Fickelson and Eric Legnini; the bassists Thomas Bramerie, Rémi Vignolo (now a drummer), Clo­vis Nicolas, Paul Imm and Sylvain Romano; the drum­mers Bruno Ziarelli, Jean-Pierre Arnaud, Philippe Soirat, Laurent Robin, Dré Pallemaerts and Tony Rabeson.

An homage to these inspirational figures whose exa­mple stimulates their own artistic expression, “Brothe­rhood” showcases compositions dedicated to musicians who were figureheads during the evolution of the Bel­mondo Quintet. Taking up a method initiated by Bach himself, who in the Art of the Fugue introduced the fa­mous theme based on the four letters of his own name, B.A.C.H, Lionel Belmondo has written a series of four pieces based on the names of those who inspired them: Wayne’s Words for Wayne Shorter; Yusef’s Tree for Yu­sef Lateef; Letters to Evans for Bill Evans, and Woody ‘n Us for Woody Shaw. Postulating a system of correspon­dences between the letters composing the surnames of the musicians and the notes of the scale (A = la, B = si, C = do, etc.), Lionel Belmondo extrapolates in a jazz context a principle put into practice by Maurice Ravel, when he composed for example in 1922 the famous Berceuse sur le nom de Gabriel Fauré. Through this approach Lionel has created surprisingly expressive evocations of the mu­sicians who have inspired him.

“Brotherhood” also includes two works by Lionel inspired by French liturgical organ music, particularly in relation to modality: Doxologie and Sirius. Stéphane Belmondo has composed two works, Prétexte, in the grand high-en­ergy tradition of the quintet, and a delicate ballad dedi­cated to his late father Yvan Belmondo.

In addition, “Brotherhood” marks the resurgence of the B Flat Recordings label – created by the Belmondo brothers in 2003 and dormant since 2011 – on which other pro­jects and re-releases of the Belmondo brothers’ projects will appear.

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