"Although it emerged in the late 1960s concurrent with American counterparts who were also investigating a fusion of jazz with a rock sensibility, the British Canterbury scene has always retained a distinct complexion. American artists like Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, and Chick Corea tended to approach fusion from the jazz side of the equation. By contrast, many of the Canterbury scene’s leading lights, including Soft Machine’s Hugh Hopper and Mike Ratledge, came from a background in pop and were influenced by contemporary classical composers like the minimalist Terry Riley.

While improvisation was an underlying fundamental in all fusion, a certain pop-like lyricism - even when layered over complex and irregularly-metered rhythms - defined the Canterbury sound. Hatfield and the North’s Dave Stewart may have woven lengthy melodies over constantly shifting meters, but they always remained compellingly singable. It was this pop sensibility, despite an often idiosyncratic context, that elevated many Canterbury groups to legendary status amongst fans of both progressive rock and fusion.

French drummer Patrick Forgas has been called “the French answer to the Canterbury scene”. Part of the same 1970s community that included bands like Magma and Zao, Forgas nevertheless eschewed the more extreme view of these groups, aiming for the same kind of lengthy episodic compositions that characterized Canterbury bands like National Health and Caravan. All but disappearing during the 1980s, Forgas re-emerged a decade later with Forgas Band Phenomena - a group that, despite its elaborate leanings, is a true performing band.

Soleil 12 is the Phenomena’s third release, and the first to receive international distribution. Recorded live at France’s Le Triton—a club that’s become an important focal point for the recently-resurgent progressive scene—it features a revamped octet of mostly twenty and thirty-something players, with experience ranging from the French progressive scene to collaborations with artists like Archie Shepp and Paolo Fresu.

The four extended compositions - ranging from the eight-minute “Éclipse” to the 34-minute epic “Coup de Théâtre” - are all characterized by similar conceits. While there’s a degree of complexity in terms of the number of discrete musical passages that come together to form a longer piece, individual sections often revolve around relatively simple changes - albeit usually in odd time signatures. One section may make a significant stylistic shift to the next, yet there’s always a logical and organic flow, despite knotty and sometimes orchestral transitions.

With two saxophones, trumpet, and violin augmenting the more conventional guitar/keys/bass/drums lineup, there’s plenty of textural diversity. There’s also plenty of solo space, with violinist Frédéric Norel and keyboardist Igor Brover standing out amongst the band’s overall high level. But a resistance against bombast and a clearly melodically leaning disposition align Forgas Band Phenomena’s version of fusion more closely with the Canterbury aesthetic, rather than the more in-your-face virtuosity of some of its American contemporaries.

Still, Soleil 12 has more than enough meat to satisfy fans of American fusion. Its combination of singable themes and rock rhythms will appeal to Canterbury devotees specifically - and, indeed, all fans of improvisation within a richly composed context".

John Kelman

EXPOSÉ (link)

"I missed out on the Forgas Band Phenomena for the longest time, having heard Patrick Forgas' 70s work and not caring much for it. The incredible performance by this group at Les Tritonales in 2004 changed everything (sadly too late to obtain the long out-of-print Roue Libre - interested readers should bust their butts to get Extra-Lucide while they can). Forgas Band Phenomena is an eight-piece group featuring mostly younger musicians led by Forgas on drums. Standard rock instrumentation, horns, saxophones and violin give Forgas an impressive palette to work with. The material is orchestral jazz-rock with a healthy dash of Canterbury of the kind scarcely made anymore; virtuosic, tasteful, and melodically pleasing. Apart from Forgas the highlight for me is Frédéric Norel on violin, whose parts add a bit of Mahavishnu/Arti e Mestieri to the already impressive brew. Four tracks here total 70 minutes, all instrumental with the 34-minute "Coup De Théâtre" dominating. Even more impressive, the entire set was recorded live at Le Triton in March 2005, scant months after the aforementioned festival performance. On a label renowned for strong releases, Soleil 12 stands out as an essential acquisition in the 2005 releases".

Sean McFee

"This is the third part of Forgas' "Big Wheel" trilogy (inspired by the Ferris wheel in Paris at the turn of the 20th century, duly recorded on the covers of this, and the previous two Forgas albums). The opening track brilliantly underscores overlapping melodic lines played on saxes, flugelhorn and violin with a cyclical guitar figure, supported by keyboards and the guiding groove and precision of the rhythm section; at the first break guitarist Sylvain Ducloux launches into a ripping solo that belies the otherwise Canterbury-ish nature of the piece. The amazing thing is that this is a live take - in fact the entire album is, recorded at Le Triton last spring. The centrepiece of the disc is the multi-part suite "Coup De Théâtre", combining stunningly beautiful melodies with a driving jazz-rock propulsion that takes the listener through seemingly endless labyrinthine curves and canyons, shifting effortlessly from soaring flights to gentle sections of repose and back again numerous times over its 35 minutes, with each new section highlighting a different aspect of the amazing group interplay. Complex and melodically riveting, repeated listens will recall familiar moments, yet there's always something new to discover each time; after 20 or so plays, I'm beginning to wonder if I will ever know this piece well enough to predict what's coming next ! The remaining two tracks are equally engaging, the closer a live take of the longest number from 1999's Extra-Lucide. Simply put, music just doesn't get much better than this".

Peter Thelen


"The Forgas Band Phenomena's latest release blurs idiomatic considerations so extensively they render stylistic definitions irrelevant. No one can accuse bandleader and principal composer Patrick Forgas of being tame or conservative in his writing and arrangements. The shortest piece on the CD is over eight minutes, and the extremely intense "Coup De Théâtre (Expect the Unexpected)" spans almost 35, though it contains enough surprising transitions to retain interest.

Forgas made plenty of rhythmically challenging, edgy music during the '70s and early '80s before temporarily retiring. He's been leading various editions of the Forgas Band since the mid-'90s, and this octet version has a twin sax, trumpet, guitar and violin frontline ably suited for works whose opening melodies quickly give way to furious exchanges, spirited solos and passages bouncing back and forth between avant-garde jazz and shorter, rock-tinged statements.

The band members with the most prominent jazz pedigrees include tenor/soprano saxophonist Stanislas De Nussac, violinist Frédéric Norel and alto saxophonist Denis Guivar'ch, whose rich tone and bright, soulful lines embrace the modern bop tradition and also dip into the soul/blues vocabulary. Keyboardist Igor Brover and guitarist Sylvain Ducloux add sonic spice and rock leanings, with Forgas' sparkling drumming uniting disparate elements into a rhythmically smooth and fluid sound.

While there are periods in "Coup De Théâtre" and "Pieuvre à la Pluie" when the Forgas Band takes far too long to conclude segments that have peaked creatively, the bulk of Soleil 12 is captivating".

Ron Wynn


"The term “fusion” has come to (loosely) define many things over the years. Jazz fused with rock, funk, whatever (Weather Report, Yellowjackets), slickly produced easygoing jazz (Grant Geissman, Lee Ritenour), even some Quiet Storm/smooth jazz performers, etc. There’s another foray fusion has taken, that of our European brethren – cue Forgas Band Phenomena. Without making this an US vs. Them thing, the Europeans seem to be a bit more open to a greater variety of influences (duh – jazz is more popular there than in the US of A).
Listening to the wonderfully diverse, panoramic Soleil 12, assorted aspects of jazz, rock, classical (19th and early 20th-century styles), film music come to the fore. But where a lesser posse of players might forgo subtlety, thereby blitzing the listener with lots of flashy technique, which the Forgas fellows have in spades, volume and whatnot, these Euros take a different tack.
The four lengthy tracks here, the shortest is eight minutes and the longest 34 minutes, feature distinct melodies and tight, urgent, almost suite-like arrangements vaguely recalling Frank Zappa and Carla Bley, which nonetheless give each player chances to strut their formidable stuff. There’s restraint, ebb and flow at work here. Forgas Band Phenomena can be as diabolically busy as electric-era Bill Bruford, as groove-y as Brian Auger and soar with easy grace as Jean-Luc Ponty. They don’t fire on all cylinders all the time, soloing with focused lyricism, not ego. They don’t pound when they can soar.
There’s precious little “funk” in the American sense on Soleil 12. Maybe because they’re not Americans, but Europeans weaving aspects of their cultural heritage into their overall sound without sounding pompous or elitist. This dandy platter proves there’s plenty of possibilities left in the fusion realm. If you have ever embraced the electric sounds from across the pond,  legendary prog-rockers PFM, Hatfield & the North, Matching Mole, and/or the proto-fusion works of Zappa, Ponty, Gary Burton or Gil Evans (circa early 1970s), the bracing, mostly harmonious Soleil 12 should be a priority".

Mark Keresman


"Patrick Forgas has a career in music stretching back over 30 years. Over the past dozen or so years, his focus has been on the Forgas Band Phenomena, a large-ish group consisting of brass, violin, keys, bass/guitar/drums that plays Forgas’ jazzy, Canterbury inflected compositions. Each of his albums has been a leap forward in compositional complexity and musical skill, with 2005’s Soleil 12 a high water mark in his long career.

The album was the final part in a trilogy of albums that explored the impact of the Great Wheel, a huge Ferris wheel that stood over the Parisian skyline from 1898 to 1921. The first album in this series, 1997’s Roue Libre, told the story of the wheel’s grand opening, while 1999’s Extra-Lucide explored the environs surrounding the wheel. As every story must have an ending, the tale of the wheel’s fading, dismantling, and eventual disappearance would be told through Soleil 12. For this release, recorded live at the famous Le Triton on 15 March 2005, Forgas would be joined by seven musicians, two of whom remain with him to this day. Igor Brover (keyboards) and Kengo Mochizuki (bass) have continued to play with Forgas up through the band’s most recent shows, while Sylvain Ducloux (guitar), Frédéric Norel (violin), Stanislas De Nussac (saxes), Denis Guivarc’h (alto sax) and Sylvain Gontard (trumpet/flugelhorn) have all moved on. Lest one thinks this is due to a lack of musicianship, one listen to Soleil 12 will put that belief to rest quickly. There is no lack of individual musicianship on Soleil 12, with everyone stepping out at least once among the four extended compositions that make up the release. The pieces are filled to overflowing with melody, grooves and energy, even during more laid back, slower sections. At the heart of it all is Patrick Forgas’ drumming, metronomic in its ability to keep time, but always with a just right flourish or fill to add a bit of spice to the pot.

It’s hard to say who Soleil 12 is best recommended to, because I think it is an album that can and will appeal to a wide range of listeners. Fans of fusion, jazz, Canterbury music, or anything that features lots of horns and strings, will find a veritable treasure trove of material to dig into.

Track by Track Review

- "Soleil 12" opens with its title track, and from the onset listeners will have a good idea what they are in store for. Frédéric Norel tears the roof off Le Triton with some fantastic violin playing while the band jams behind him. Forgas and Kengo Mochizuki lock into each other, playing a tight groove for the band to blow over. The head written for this piece is very hooky and it’s easy to get lost in the band’s playing, whistling along as they float effortlessly over the tight rhythms. Sylvain Ducloux lets rip with his own impressive solo, fleet fingered playing shifting to long sustained lines, all with a slightly overdriven tone that seems both just slightly out of place and yet perfectly natural for the music at hand. At just over nine minutes in length this piece, which would very nearly be an epic for many bands, is one of the shorter pieces the band has released, yet it’s packed full of intensely melodic playing.

- "Coup De Théâtre" : At 34:47, this is not only easily the longest track on Soleil 12, it’s possibly among the longest tracks on a progressive music album not released by an electronic musician. Following on from a statement of the main theme, Sylvain Ducloux gets the first solo spot, with a heavier sounding solo that’d not be out of place on most rock albums. The two horn players riff together in tight harmony, leading into a pleasant electric piano solo from Brover, then one from violinist Norel. Over the course of the rest of the track, themes and solos will play off each other, and despite the 34-plus minute length, the song never feels or sounds stale, nor does it feel like a never ending series of statements. There’s development and drama musically, and the piece actually feels like a tightly composed musical statement, not a long-winded opportunity for the band to show off.

- "Éclipse" : The album proper ends with the disappearance of the Great Wheel in “Eclipse,” following on from the gradual dismemberment and disassembly told through the lengthy “Coup De Théâtre” preceding it. The song opens in a more restrained way, heralding none of the pomp evident in the release’s true epic, with horn lines sounding sorrowful and mournful even as Brover’s keyboard lines have a chiming, brighter feel to them. Norel’s violin spotlight about two minutes in gives him a chance to show off both quick, saw like playing and quieter, more melodic lines. The trumpet bits that follow from Sylvain Gontard are also especially pleasant, and then as the song builds in intensity throughout, one gets the feeling of a new beginning arising from the ashes of the old.

- "Pievre à la Pluie" : This composition was originally released on the band’s previous album, 1999’s Extra-Lucide. As it was recorded live at the same concert that yielded the main material for this release, the band decided to add it on as a bonus track. Additionally, as it was part of the material originally written in 1978 for a failed follow up to his release Cocktail (two long form pieces were to be recorded for that album; the other was eventually reworked into ‘Coup De Théâtre’), its release here brings together all of the material intended for that fated release. It’s a driving instrumental composition with fantastic horn and bass work throughout, and it closes out this release with flair and style".

Bill Knispel


"For fans of Soft Machine, Gong, Bruford, National Health, Passport and Frank Zappa", it says on the sleeve of Soleil 12, the third CD by the Phenomena led by drummer/ composer Patrick Forgas whose music has been called "the French answer to the Canterbury scene" since his debut release Cocktail with members of Zao and Magma. Here he leads an eight piece instrumental band of relatively young musicians whose skill and authority within the genre of jazz rock fusion is simply breathtaking.

Even the 35 minute "Coup de Théâtre" is not as demanding on the listener as you might expect and is easily devoured in one go thanks to the versatility of the composition and instrumentation - I really enjoyed the interplay between guitar, organ and violin in its rockier moments and sections reminded me of the great Chicago Transit Authority (not to be confused with Chicago whose eponymous double album only can be forgiven!). What’s astonishing about all this is that the superb brass work and rich soloing is all confined within a sound compositional framework. All the more remarkable as "Coup de Théâtre" has been a ‘piece in waiting’ since 1978!

There is not a dull moment on the album and although you can indeed ‘expect the unexpected’ this does not make this an avant-garde album - its treasures are easily accessible to the widest audience of musical enthusiasts. Indeed the opening track has shades of Pink Floyd and King Crimson and "Soleil 12" will certainly appeal to fans of progressive rock as well as the aforementioned genres. The soloing is exceptionally concise throughout and the rhythm section is quite brilliant of course ! Soleil 12 is a musical and compositional extravaganza that should not be missed by serious music lovers !"

Phil Jackson

BIG BANG (link)

"Si les deux premiers albums du Forgas Band Phenomena, Roue Libre (1997) et Extra-Lucide (1999), publiés par Cosmos Music, furent d'incontestables réussites sur le plan artistique, il n'en fut malheureusement pas de même sur celui de la diffusion. Mais il en fallait davantage pour décourager le valeureux batteur-compositeur ! Après une parenthèse new-age en solitaire chez Muséa en 2002, le voilà donc aujoud'hui chez Cuneïform. Indéniablement, au vu de l'identité musicale du label, il trouve là une place toute naturelle. Mais espérons que ce sera surtout l'occasion de se faire plus largement connaître, notamment hors de nos frontières.

On peut donc considérer qu'il s'agit pour Forgas d'une nouvelle chance comme d'un nouveau départ, d'autant que de retour à la formule la plus ambitieuse, il renouvelle une fois de plus ses effectifs (son carnet d'adresses semble inépuisable !)... Aux côtés de Denis Guivarc'h au sax alto, seul rescapé du précédent album, ce ne sont pas moins de six nouveaux musiciens qui sont venus renforcer le groupe, et enrichir notablement, au passage, sa palette sonore (trompette et violon comptent parmi les acquisitions).

En dépit de cette instabilité chronique, on constate une totale continuité musicale entre Soleil 12 et les deux albums précédents, sentiment renforcé d'ailleurs par la persistance des choix symboliques et iconographiques. Rien de plus normal si l'on sait que le le plat de résistance du jour n'est autre que "Coup De Théatre", magnum-opus que Forgas a sous le coude depuis 1978, qui aurait dû constituer alors celui de son second disque (après Cocktail l'année précédente), et avait par la suite envisagé pour Extra-Lucide.

Comme à l'accoutumée, on trouve au menu de cet album deux types de compositions témoignant de partis-pris esthétiques assez différents. Tout d'abord des pièces relativement courtes (8 minutes en moyenne), puisant dans un contenu thématique restreint et délivré sur un mode répétitif, souligné par les motifs cycliques de guitare et de claviers qui les sous-tendent. Après "Déclic", "Rebirth" et "Annie-Réglisse", on découvre ici "Soleil 12" (9:22), placé de façon optimale en ouverture de l'album, qui renvoie au meilleur de Roue Libre tout en conservant à l'écriture mélodique un rôle prédominant, et "Eclipse" (8:16) (joué en rappel lors du concert au Triton qui a fourni la matière du CD), dont la trame plus serrée, prétexte à une succession d'ébouriffants solos, se ressent fortement de cette vocation de défouloir de fin de concert.

Les deux autres pièces, "Coup De Théâtre" (34:47) et "Pieuvre à la Pluie" (18:18), composition déjà présente sur Extra-Lucide, relèvent donc de l'autre catégorie, celles des "épopées", marquée au-delà de leur durée hors du commun par le renouvellement incessant de leur propos et l'absence, plus atypique encore, de retours en arrière vers les thèmes précédemment évoqués. Les "suites" conçues par Forgas ne sont pas des sortes de symphonies jazz-rock, régies par les principes théoriques de la "grande forme", mais bel et bien une succession totalement arbitraire, quoique mûrement réfléchie, de thèmes très contrastés, que ce soit dans l'intensité, l'instrumentation ou le style. Cet éclectisme est poussé à son extrême sur "Coup De Théâtre", le goût de Forgas pour le coq-à-l'âne s'étendant à des séquences parfois proches du pastiche, tant du côté du jazz que, par exemple, du hard-rock. A l'inverse, "Pieuvre A La Pluie" se révèle, particulièrement dans cette nouvelle version, comme la plus fluide et homogène du compositeur dans ce registre.

Ceux qui s'obstineront à ne voir dans ces morceaux que des pavés sans queue ni tête, dont l'absence de logique structurelle serait le signe d'une pensée musicale forcément superficielle, passeront à côté de l'essentiel, c'est-à-dire d'une part de la nature foncièrement festive et sans prétention de la musique de Forgas; et d'autre part de la validité d'une approche consistant à embarquer l'auditeur (pourvu qu'il soit consentant...) dans un périple musical à rebondissements, où le fait de ne jamais revenir aux thèmes précédents, en rendant imprévisible la suite des événements, constitue le principal vecteur de la perte de repères, et donc du dépaysement, recherchés tant par le compositeur que l'auditeur. Ce n'est pas un hasard si le premier morceau de ce type créé par Forgas s'intitulait "My Trip"...

Au-delà de son émancipation appréciable des conventions, la démarche d'écriture de Forgas, si elle prend sans doute racine dans son parcours musical autodidacte, renvoie également, et de façon tout aussi précieuse, à une posture musicale qui n'a plus guère cours aujourd'hui, et qui nous ramène à une époque, le tournant des années 1960-70, où jazz et rock semblaient parvenir à définir un terrain d'entente particulièrement fructueux. Ces velléités œcuméniques allaient hélas être sabotées, tant par les intégristes des deux bords que par, il faut bien le reconnaître, la dégénérescence rapide dans la démonstration et les clichés, de ce que l'on appela alors le jazz-fusion, entraînant sa décrédibilisation quasi-totale. Il apparaît pourtant qu'en revenant aux meilleures sources, en l'occurrence l'esprit du Soft Machine en 1969-70, il y a encore beaucoup de bonheur musical à tirer de cette voie injustement abandonnée. Et c'est précisément ce que fait Forgas, qui modernise au passage cet héritage tout en l'agrémentant de son inimitable patte personnelle.

L'élargissement de l'effectif instrumental apparaît de ce point de vue comme un atout considérable dans la réussite de cette entreprise. En effet, l'ajout du violon tend à contrebalancer l'omniprésence des cuivres, ce que guitare et claviers, souvent monopolisés par leur rôle texturel, n'ont qu'épisodiquement l'occasion de faire. Le long solo, aux subtiles colorations indianisantes, que délivre Frédéric Norel au milieu de "Coup De Théâtre" constitue à ce titre l'un des moments forts de l'album, tant par son irrésistible montée en puissance que par sa force symbolique. Cela ne saurait toutefois suffire à remettre en cause la suprématie du saxophone, mais celle-ci est d'autant moins problématique qu'au-delà de la diversification des timbres (soprano, alto et ténor), Forgas a fait appel à deux musiciens aux styles diamétralement opposés et idéalement complémentaires, avec d'un côté Denis Guivarc'h, pur jazzman hallucinant de vélocité et de brio, et de l'autre Stanislas De Nussac, qui œuvre dans un registre plus nuancé, ses solos de soprano en particulier étant empreints d'un lyrisme et d'une mélodicité remarquables, contrebalançant de manière bienvenue le déluge de notes orchestré par son très bavard collègue.

Il serait malhonnête de nier que, de par la charge symbolique qu'ils véhiculent dans l'inconscient de tout mélomane, les cuivres entraînent la musique du Forgas Band Phenomena sur un terrain qui ressemble beaucoup au jazz, du moins aux yeux des profanes, et que ce positionnement esthétique peut être conçu comme problématique. Il n'est pas en effet impossible d'imaginer cette musique jouée par un effectif purement rock, et nul doute que la force des mélodies de Forgas ne s'en trouverait pas forcément amoindrie. Ce point de détail purement formel apparaît toutefois secondaire si l'on considère que, sur cet album comme les précédents, le ratio entre passages écrits et improvisés demeure assez nettement en faveur des premiers, et que par conséquent, au-delà de l'instrumentation adoptée et de ses accointances stylistiques avérées avec le jazz, la musique du Forgas Band Phenomena relève bel et bien du rock progressif, dans l'acception élargie du terme qui a toujours été défendue dans ces pages.

La publication de cet album chez Cuneiform s'avère dès lors totalement appropriée, la prédilection de ce label pour les franges les plus audacieuses du courant progressif clarifiant les choses tant du point de vue de ce que Forgas partage avec le rock progressif que de ce qui, pour certains, l'en distingue. La haute réputation et la force de frappe de l'écurie américaine devraient maintenant faire en sorte que, faute de faire l'unanimité chez les mélomanes progressifs, sa musique parvienne aux oreilles de tous ceux qu'elle serait susceptible de séduire. C'est peut-être, en définitive, la meilleure nouvelle apportée par Soleil 12 : de voir enfin réunies les conditions d'une appréciation optimale de l'art forgassien, c'est-à-dire d'un côté ce qui s'impose assurément comme son meilleur album à ce jour, et de l'autre la promesse d'un impact sans précédent au niveau de la diffusion. Il ne reste plus maintenant qu'à laisser la séduction opérer...".

Laurent Métayer & Julien Goarnisson


"Connu des amateurs du genre Canterbury depuis la fin des années 1970 et auteur d’un premier album, Cocktail (avec des membres de Magma et Zao), Patrick Forgas, batteur de son état, est l’un des seuls représentants de ce style « so british » en France. Après une longue accalmie discographique (en solo tout du moins), Forgas revient dans les années 1990 avec quatre disques, dont Roue Libre (1997) et Extra-Lucide (1999), sous le nom de Forgas Band Phenomena.

C’est en 2004 que le groupe réapparaît avec de nouveaux musiciens (soit huit au total), pour une date au Festival Les Tritonales, en compagnie des turbulents Syrinx et au cours de laquelle il joua un nouveau et long titre « Coup de Théâtre ». A l’aise dans cette salle, le FBP proposa donc un nouveau concert le 15 mars dernier, que l’on retrouve gravé ici. Au final, trois titres inédits furent joués («Coup de Théâtre», «Soleil 12» et «Eclipse») et, au vu de leur longueur, c’est en réalité près d’une heure de musique inédite qui figure sur ce disque. La base de travail de deux de ces nouveaux morceaux est constituée de compositions initialement prévues pour le successeur de Cocktail, qui ne vit jamais le jour.

C'est avec plaisir que l’on écoute le groupe de Forgas délivrer une musique souvent joyeuse, technique et inspirée, dans ce genre aujourd’hui quasi-abandonné qu’est le Canterbury. «Soleil 12» rappelle les mélodies veloutées de Hatfield & The North, tandis que les claviers analogiques d’Igor Brover sonnent très Soft Machine et que le jeu de Sylvain Ducloux est proche de celui d’Holdsworth période Gong. La pièce de résistance est bien entendu «Coup de Théâtre» et ses trente-cinq minutes qui ne risquent pas de lasser, tant les multiples tiroirs qu’il ouvre et referme recèlent de petites trouvailles musicales en tous genres, avec en particulier un passage central porté par la basse de Kengo Mochizuki, et les sax de Stanislas de Nussac et Denis Guivarc’h (déjà présent sur Extra-Lucide), renvoyant la balle à la trompette de Sylvain Gontard. Sur cette musique vive et rafraîchissante que les guitares et le violon enrichissent de quelques enluminures mélodiques, c’est bien la rythmique surexcitée et les cuivres qui se taillent la part du lion.

Ce disque s’impose donc comme le meilleur FBP grâce à la qualité de l’ensemble, d’autant – et c’est assez rare pour être souligné – qu’il s’agit d’un album live. Forgas, aidé par Jacques «Mr Triton» Vivante, a réalisé une production très propre et claire, et le son est incontestablement meilleur que celui des deux précédentes livraisons studio. De même, le contexte d’un concert s’accorde très bien avec l’inventivité du jazz-rock et ses pérégrinations instrumentales de haute volée. Bien jouée et composée, la musique du groupe impose le respect et saura trouver son public, bien trop sevré en sorties de qualité depuis… trente ans !".

Julien Monsenego


"The third release from France's Forgas Band Phenomena, titled Soleil 12, is four songs of rich, captivating, and exploratory Canterbury styled fusion. Led by drummer Patrick Forgas (who recorded projects in the 70's & 80's with members of Magma and Zao), this big band ensemble of eight players will instantly remind you of 70's groups like National Health, Hatfield & the North, Soft Machine, Gilgamesh, Bruford, Caravan, as well as American acts like Frank Zappa and Miles Davis. All instrumental, these songs flow and soar, with biting solos and symphonic full band arrangements that are melodic and instantly memorable. The album was recorded live at France’s Le Triton club in early 2005, a venue that now showcases many progressive rock and fusion acts.

The band that Forgas has put together includes drums, guitar, keyboars, bass, violin, two sax players, and a trumpet/flugelhorn player. From the raging fusion sounds of the opening title track, to the more laid back and melodic progressive jazz of the monster epic "Coup De Théâtre", this is some seriously inventive stuff. The skill of the players is extemely high throughout the CD. The weaving violin/sax/trumpet melodies on "Coup De Théâtre" for example are just scrumptuous, with the busy underpinning of Forgas' drum work and the meaty guitar chords and solos of Sylvain Ducloux providing the perfect foil. "Eclipse" is more in a progressive rock style, with intricate keyboard textures from Igor Brover laying the groundwork for Frederic Norel's soaring lead violin, which reminded me of Jean Luc Ponty's 70's work, that is until Sylvain Gontard's horn joined the mix for a spot of pure jazz. The dual sax melodies from Stranislas De Nussac and Denis Guicarc'h are the catalyst for "Pieuvre à la Pluie", a near 19-minute venture into atmospheric prog-rock and Canterbury styled fusion. Here, the rhythm work of Forgas and bassist Kengo Mochizuki work overtime, with guitarist Ducloux laying down some funky chords, while the reeds take center stage. It times the music gets pretty complex on this one, with the whole band really grooving and in synch with each other.

As usual, Cuneiform Records comes up with another winner. 70 minutes of prime fusion is a good reason to celebrate, and the Forgas Band Phenomena deliver the goods in a big way. One of the best fusion releases of the year!".

Pete Pardo


"The music of drummer Patrick Forgas' octet is intriguing and sometimes a little difficult to classify. In ways it is reminiscent of some of the more adventurous fusion band projects of the 1970s, blending together the sound and power of rock with jazz improvisation yet in a scope that is a bit like a classical symphony. The four selections on Soleil 12, which includes the episodic 34-minute "Coup de Théâtre," keep one guessing but they generally progress and evolve logically. Most rewarding among the soloists are violinist Frédéric Norel and saxophonist Stanislas De Nussac (whose soprano playing on "Éclipse" is outstanding). Forgas' bass drum can be a bit overwhelming at times in the recording mix and there are times when one wishes the band could cut loose more from the arrangements, but overall this is an enjoyable set of Patrick Forgas' original music".

Scott Yanow


"On Soleil 12, Forgas Band Phenomena blends jazz fusion with the ambitious scaling of progressive rock. The octet, formed by drummer Patrick Forgas, includes guitarist Sylvain Ducloux, keyboardist Igor Brover, bassist Kengo Mochizuki, violinist Frédéric Norel, saxophonists Stanislas De Nussac and Denis Guivarc'h, and trumpeter Sylvain Gontard. While the horn charts and Brover's tasteful comping are particularly jazzy on "Soleil 12", Forgas's forceful drumming and Ducloux's spacey guitar textures impart an element of prog to the proceedings.

The band is at their most ambitious on "Coup de Théâtre," a thirty-four minute long epic that is chock full of energetic episodes and solo turns from practically every member of the band; contributions by Norel, Ducloux and De Nussac are particularly fine. Norel also fiddles fierily on "Eclipse," and is matched note for stratospheric note by Gontard's overblowing trumpet and Nussac's soprano sax. After an atmospheric introduction, "Pieuvre a la Pluie" rounds the album out with a hot chart played with razor sharp coordination".

Christian Carey


"Though French drummer and composer Patrick Forgas’ music has been called “the French answer to the Canterbury scene”, I might draw a preliminary comparison to fellow countryman and Magma leader Christian Vander. First, the “Canterbury scene” in question is that subgenre of progressive rock that started, appropriately, in Canterbury with The Wilde Flowers, which then branched into Soft Machine and Caravan, and then grew willy-nilly into Hatfield and the North, National Health, and then onto bands active and freshly forming today, from countries as distant from Canterbury as Japan.  Which is to say that the tag refers more to a style of playing and writing than it does to any geographic scene. What is definitively stylistically “Canterbury” would be difficult to say, but generally it is cerebral, melodic, jazzy, and tricky progressive rock; heavy on the virtuosity, but typically also keeping a self-depreciating sense of humor to the fore. Distorted electric guitars, organs, and electric pianos, and horns and violins pile up into extended suites or short tunes, depending, and usually vocals are kept to a minimum, if included at all.

We’ll get back to the Canterbury part; now on to Christian Vander and the musical behemoth he’s been leading on and off for some 35 years, Magma. First, Vander’s a drummer and composer, like Forgas. They’re roughly contemporaries too: Vander was born in 1948 and Forgas in 1951. Both are powerhouse drummers leading young bands through some of their most ambitious work in years - Vander with the acclaimed K.A (Köhntarkösz Anteria) (2004) and Forgas with this new release, Soleil 12.  Both base their work on grand themes - Vander inventing his own language (Kobaian) to express his own Armageddon-and-beyond mythology, and Forgas, while not as far out as that (what is?) has dedicated a trilogy of albums, of which this is the third, to Paris’ Big Wheel landmark (1898-1921). Finally, Vander’s pieces, like their conceptual underpinning, are large - a 20-minute piece is not unusual; and Forgas’ are likewise great in scope - the second piece on this disc reaching a whopping 35 minutes.

This is where we come back to Canterbury, because the texture of Forgas music is different from Vander’s. It’s intense, but does lean more to what one might think of as Canterbury, though I don’t think the tag is a terribly good match overall.  The jazz quality is there - in fact, the soloists are quite impressive, particularly Denis Guivarc’h’s alto saxophone, which has a hard-cornered, Kenny Garrett quality - but not so much the sense of humor. Not that the music is serious, but Forgas’ vision is panoramic and anthemic, and doesn’t include overt humour. No need for it : his writing is memorable and achieves a genuinely uplifting quality, not just a simulacrum of one. The compositions are remarkable, moving as they do through multiple areas each, with distinct personalities that manage to add to the whole - rather rare in non-classical pieces of this length.

This Cuneiform release is this band’s first outside France, and is reputed to be the best of the trilogy. Hopefully we’ll hear more in the future from this great drummer-composer-bandleader, whatever genre it is in which he works".

James Beaudreau


"Imagine my surprise to put on this disc of recordings from March, 2005 (live performances from Le Triton in France) and be immediately transported to the familiar violin-led soaring fusion sound of classic Jean-Luc Ponty, which is some of my all-time favorite music. For me, Ponty's work in that period (between 1975 and 1978, to be exact) is one of the untouchable peaks in fusion history, and Forgas Band Phenomena don't scale the same heights of compositional richness or instrumental virtuosity by any stretch, but this is a superb program of music in a style sadly neglected these days and it will be welcomed as warmly by 70s fusion junkies like me as it will be abruptly avoided by others for its unabashed and naive embodiment of the genre's cliches.

As it turns out, this material should have the feeling of an earlier era, because it's primarily a reworking of veteran fusion drumkitter Patrick Forgas' pieces from an aborted 1978 album under the same group name. For this project, Forgas harnessed seven other musicians mostly a generation or two younger than him to finally bring his baby into the world of public documentation after 25 years of neglect and occasional incubation. Unsurprisingly, aspects of 80s and 90s fusion have crept into the music as well, like the occasional use of a hard rock -tinged guitar style that recalls Gongzilla, and some digital keyboards that are my only serious complaint about the disc. Thankfully it's a rare blemish that will not prevent anyone from enjoying this excellent album, but occasionally there's a truly horrible "what were they thinking?" moment of dreadful digital synth cheesiness mixed in with the overall quite nice analog-flavored keyboard work.

The three-piece horn section certainly calls to mind some of Billy Cobham's mid-70s work, like Crosswinds or Total Eclipse, and the more laid-back moments of The Eleventh House from the same period, but a comparison with Cobham's largely funk-infused 70s work brings out a crucial aspect of the Forgas Band Phenomena sound: its mellifluous, very non-funk rhythmic feeling (one of the key similarities to the Ponty work mentioned above). In a way, it strikes me as a very prototypical non-Zeuhl French fusion sound, but I don't know if there's any real substance to that impression. Perhaps these are people who felt a stronger affinity with Claude Debussy than James Brown? The violin-heavy passages on the disc call to mind the the sprightly mid-70s folk fusion gems of Flying Island. The mellow, loungy, smooth passages in alternation with driving, energetic passages is another hallmark of mid and late 70s fusion archetypes.

Overall, what we have is simple, straighthead fusion based around vigorous rhythm section vamps, solos and unison themes with bright, lush conventional melodies and harmonies, distinguished by its broad orchestral palette and long suites of themes recycled and developed along a familiar post-Mahler arc. Non-avant fusion is a minor presence in the Cuneiform catalog, but this definitely sits aside the past two decades of work by Hugh Hopper and Phil Miller previously documented, and has a similar shade of easy-listening Canterbury along the lines of the softer mid-70s work of Ian Carr's Nucleus. As with all Cuneiform releases, quality is never an issue; it's just a matter of what style of music you like. It may not hold a candle to Ponty's best stuff, but if you like that general fusion sound, this is 70 minutes of polished, somewhat ambitious, and fully realized vintage fusion that cannot fail to delight".

Michael Anton Parker


"The Forgas Band Phenomena is a fusion jazz rock band led by French composer and drummer Patrick Forgas, who released his first album Cocktail in 1977 with members from the French bands Magma and Zao. In this reincarnation the band is formed by Patrick Forgas (drums), Sylvain Ducloux (guitar), Igor Brover (keyboards), Kengo Mochizuki (bass), Frédéric Norel (vioin), Stanislas De Nussac (tenor & soprano sax), Denis Guivarc'h (alto sax) and Sylvain Gontard (trumpet & flugelhorn).

What does it sound like? Patrick Forgas has been hailed as "the French answer to the Canterbury scene" and to be more precise the most jazz/fusion oriented wing of this genre, including a glimpse of French folk.

Similar artists: The influence of Jean-Luc Ponty is pretty notorious throughout the whole album, not just because of the fine violin lines of Frédéric Norel, but also beacuse of the instrumental melodies and arrangements. Melodies that provoke a similar friendly feeling as Ponty's classic works and can also resemble of the wonderful French violinst Bruno Barre of Gwendal. The work of Frank Zappa is also recognizable as an influence, especially in the metal melody arrangements, which could be also compared to Soft Machine's early era. The influence of Canterbury sound is also present with a resemblance of bands such as National Health and even some of the early Bill Bruford's works. The most jazzy oriented work of the band comes with a glimpse of George Duke's classic sound that could also resemble the most acoustic side of Jaga Jazzist.

Highlights: This is a live album recorded with mastery that keeps all the warmth and brilliance of this wonderful ensemble of jazz musicians. The length of some of the tracks - 34 and 18 minutes - gives an idea of how much this band is oriented to improvisation, but always within the parameters of a progressive and structured basis. If I had to remark upon something special from this album, it would be the wonderful and tasteful playing from each and every one of its members, including the nice solos from saxists Stanislas De Nussac and Denis Guivarc'h, eclectic guitar playing from Sylvain Ducloux, the backing but ever-present diverse keyboard work by Igor Brover, and the effective driving force from the percussion of Patrick Forgas.

Recommendations: A top 10 album for Jean-Luc Ponty and 70's jazz rock fusion fans who are not afraid to discover new music talents".

Koldo Barroso


"You gotta hand it to the people a Cuneiform, when it comes to tracking down innovative music they take second place to no one. And this is the perfect label for the first North American release for the Canterbury influenced jazz-fusion 8-piece known as the Forgas Band Phenomena. This live recording entitled Soleil 12 traces the history of a giant Ferris wheel in Paris that was a popular landmark for many years until being torn down years ago. The story is told musically in four compositions.

Founded in the mid nineties by composer and drummer Patrick Forgas, the Forgas Band Phenomena consists of seven others including Sylvain Ducloux (guitars), Igor Brover (keyboards), Kengo Mochizuki (bass), Frédéric Norel (violin), Stanislas De Nussac (sax), Denis Guivarc'h (sax), and Sylvain Gontard (trumpet, flugelhorn). As you would expect this is a big sound with a strong emphasis on the horns, but it’s much more than that.

Compositionally the one-hour and ten minute CD consists of only four tracks, two around the nine minute range, one just over 18 minutes and another almost 35 minutes, and believe me there is a lot of music packed into these compositions. What is fascinating is just how diverse these pieces are. It would be a bit of an oversimplification to call this strictly jazz fusion because there is much for the symphonic fan to appreciate here. Each of these compositions contains moments of beautiful symphonic progressions with horn accents, only to switch on a dime to deliver some amazing jazzy solos, which then slide into the more Canterbury business of light jazz. Because of the length of some of these pieces such as the 35-minute “Coup de Théâtre” there is a tremendous amount of room for multiple soloing from almost every instrumentalist, and in fact everyone takes a turn at the front. It’s during this soloing where the jazz feel takes over as you would expect. That’s true not only from the horns and violin, but also the bass and drums. Conversely when the eight members are playing in unison these pieces become very majestic at times and when the guitars make their presence known they take on a decidedly rockier flavor. Just when you think it’s getting a little too jazzy or too complex, they reel it in and move in a more symphonic vein. Truth is it never goes too far out.

Lovers of jazz fusion with a strong Canterbury leaning are going to love Soleil 12 from the Forgas Band Phenomena. It displays a tremendous amount of musical talent, both on the compositional as well as musicianship side. You might say there’s a little something for everyone. I’d recommend this to lovers of symphonic prog who are looking for something a little more experimental or challenging. It’ll take you there but still bring you back to a warm and fuzzy place. Forgas Band Phenomena create music that is an excellent bridge to the more complex without losing the listener in the process".

Jerry Lucky


"La Forgas Band Phenomena propone Soleil 12, un album che rinnova l'interesse per una delle band francesi più vicine alla sensibilità di band inglesi come Caravan, Hatfield and The North e National Health. Guidati dal veterano Patrick Forgas, un batterista che già si era messo in luce nelle band francesi di rock progressivo degli anni settanta, si presentano in ottetto con fiati e violino (oltre a chitarra, tastiere, basso e batteria) e dimostrano da subito che il loro interesse principale è quello di lavorare con particolare dedizione sulle cellule melodiche. Questa scelta molto british consente loro di sviluppare idee che reggono anche alle prese con lunghe digressioni, evitando di cadere nella tentazione di dedicarsi allo sciorinamento di chilometriche sezioni di assoli al testosterone che rischiano di diventare l'equivalente della esibizione degli attributi nei primati. I quattro lunghi brani sono firmati dal batterista e mettono in luce tutti i protagonisti, con particolare riferimento al violinista Frédéric Norel e al sax alto Denis Guivarc'h, vero folletto pronto a guizzare verso il cielo con le sue frasi sempre cariche di emozione".

Maurizio Comandini


"O terceiro CD da banda Forgas Band Phenomena trás a banda na forma de octeto, com Patrick Forgas (bateria e composição), Sylvain Ducloux (guitarra), Igor Brover (teclados), Kengo Mochizuki (bass), Frédéric Norel (violin), Stanislas de Nussac (sax tenor e soprano), Denis Guivarc’h (sax alto) e Sylvain Gontard (trumpet e flugelhorn).

Em Soleil 12, Forgas continua com o jazz-rock francês, arrojado, com muita energia, bem arranjado, mas sem perder o charme das passagens mais lentas e melódicas, típicas das bandas francesas. O CD foi gravado ao vivo no Festival Les Tritonales em 2005 e apresenta três faixas novas, duas curtas, "Soleil 12" e "Éclipse", e a suite "Coup de Théâtre", além de versão nova da suite "Pieuvre á la Pluie", cuja versão original está no CD Extra Lucide. Ambas suites foram compostas no final da década de 1970 e apesar de terem sido gravadas em 2005, elas trazem o espírito e a creatividade dessa época, com destaque para violino e sopros, com solos bonitos, bem colocados e sem exageros.

Apesar de Mireille Bauer não estar mais participando, o piano elétrico, em certos momentos, soa como seu vibrafone. A banda é composta por músicos jovens, trazendo energia extra e para aqueles que acham que os solos energéticos do antigo guitarrista Mathias Desmier vão fazer falta, não se preocupem, pois Ducloux dá conta do recado, preste atenção no que o menino faz em "Soleil 12" e "Coup de Théâtre".

Muitos dizem que a FBP é resposta francesa para a cena Canterbury. O CD deve agradar aos fãs de bandas como Pierre Moerlen’s Gong, National Health e Bruford".

Renato Moraes


"Zou de Amerikaanse platenmaatschappij Cuneiform Records het als een belediging opvatten wanneer een recensent een album dat door dit label is uitgegeven zou betitelen als “goed in het gehoor liggend” of iets van dien aard? Cuneiform staat namelijk bekend om het uitbrengen van “muzikantenmuziek”, moeilijke muziek die meestal te plaatsen is in de fusion, R.I.O., Zeuhl, avant-prog of Canterbury-hoek, veelal genres die slechts een kleine groep avontuurlijk ingestelde muziekliefhebbers aanspreken. Soleil 12 van de Franse formatie Forgas Band Phenomena past perfect binnen het profiel van Cuneiform, maar toch lijkt het album een stuk toegankelijker dan het meeste materiaal dat met veel enthousiasme en toewijding door deze Amerikaanse muziekliefhebbers aan de wereld wordt gepresenteerd.

Forgas Band Phenomena is een jazz-fusion/Canterbury-genootschap dat geformeerd is rond drummer Patrick Forgas. Deze Franse trommelaar heeft een lange staat van dienst in de progressieve rock en de jazz: al in 1975 bracht hij zijn eerste plaatmateriaal uit. Echter, pas sinds 1997 houdt hij zich bezig met Forgas Band Phenomena, wat feitelijk een soort project is: voor iedere plaat die onder dit banier wordt uitgebracht trekt Forgas een nieuw regiment van jonge getalenteerde jazzmusici aan. Ten tijde van het opnemen van Soleil 12 was Forgas zelf 54, terwijl zijn band in leeftijd varieerde tussen 26 en 35. Echter, aan het samenspel te horen lijkt het soms alsof de acht leden al sinds de jaren zeventig van de vorige eeuw samen musiceren: de band is perfect op elkaar ingespeeld, wat lovenswaardig is gezien het feit dat het hier behoorlijk complexe instrumentale muziek betreft, waarvan bovendien alle composities tijdens één optreden live zijn opgenomen.

Op het eerste gehoor zou de luisteraar niet geneigd zijn te denken dat Soleil 12 de opname is van een optreden. De opnamekwaliteit is namelijk zonder meer uitstekend, zoals gewoonlijk bij Cuneiform-uitgaven, en bovendien worden de composities vrijwel foutloos gespeeld. Nu wordt er wel na de nummers beschaafd geklapt, maar zoals bands als Pink Floyd wel duidelijk hebben gemaakt hoeven dergelijke geluiden op album niet te betekenen dat er live gespeeld wordt. Echter, het derde album van Forgas Band Phenomena is wel degelijk in een concertsituatie opgenomen, waardoor het respect voor de heren musici behoorlijk toeneemt, voor zover dat nog nodig was, aangezien de muziek op zichzelf al zeker sterk en interessant is.

Forgas Band Phenomena valt eerder onder de jazz dan onder de Canterbury, hoewel er wel gebruik gemaakt wordt van rockstructuren in de muziek, en ook de elektrische gitaar soms de gelegenheid krijgt fijn te gieren. Echter, wat betreft geluid doet de muziek sowieso meteen denken aan bands als Caravan en Hatfield and the North. Deze beide groepen speelden namelijk vaak complexe jazz-georiënteerde muziek, die evenwel bijzonder toegankelijk bleef vanwege het feit dat het altijd vriendelijk bleef klinken, en het instrumentale gefröbel amper verzandde in doelloos gerotzooi. Met Forgas Band Phenomena is datzelfde het geval: de muziek klinkt altijd luisteraarvriendelijk, en hoewel er veel gesoleerd wordt, met name op saxofoon en viool, raken de solo’s nooit verstopt in de free jazz-zelfbevlekking waar bijvoorbeeld Soft Machine zich soms aan vuil maakte. Toch is ook Soft Machine een referentie die direct opkomt bij het luisteren naar Soleil 12. Hoewel dit album wat klinischer klinkt dan bijvoorbeeld Third van die vermaarde Engelse band, zijn de nummers qua opbouw, lengte, en instrumentaliteit duidelijk tot op zekere hoogte op dezelfde leest geschoeid als bijvoorbeeld "Slightly All The Time".

Door de gecontroleerdheid en af en toe klinische perfectie mist Forgas Band Phenomena soms de energie en vitaliteit die bijvoorbeeld labelgenoten Machine and the Synergetic Nuts zo spannend maken, maar deze ‘netheid’ wordt ruimschoots gecompenseerd door de dynamiek en de interne spanning van de muziek. Zo wordt er veel afgewisseld tussen instrumenten, wordt er veel gewerkt met contrapunt, polyritmiek en dissonantie, en zitten er toch voldoende ongecontroleerde momenten in de muziek om de aandacht gespannen te houden. Hierdoor is deze plaat van meer dan een uur instrumentale fusion/Canterbury, wat al gauw een lange zit kan worden, toch spannend genoeg om voor de volledige speelduur te boeien. Met name de laatste tien minuten van "Coup de Théâtre" vallen op dit gebied in positieve zin op: een nummer van bijna vijfendertig minuten viool- en saxofoongerommel kan makkelijk gaan vervelen, maar daar is hier geen sprake van.

Hoewel Soleil 12 overduidelijk bestaat uit “moeilijke” muziek, slaagt Forgas Band Phenomena er wonderwel in om de instrumentale neo-Canterbury-muziek van begin tot eind boeiend te laten zijn. Hoewel de muziek op momenten te gecontroleerd en braaf klinkt, zit er toch voldoende afwisseling binnen de compositie zelf en spanning tussen compositie en improvisatie om het album interessant te houden. Mede door deze spanning, het vriendelijke Canterbury-karakter en het open, heldere geluid is Soleil 12 een album dat weliswaar muzikantenmuziek is, maar toch toegankelijk genoeg zou moeten zijn om meer muziekliefhebbers dan alleen het vaste rijtje Cuneiform-adepten van een bijzonder genietbare luisterervaring te voorzien".

Christopher Cusack