Release Date:
April 7, 2009

Reviewed by:
Michelle Taunton

There is something magical that happens when Marc Antoine and Paul Brown play together, as their new duet album, Foreign Xchange, illustrates. From the opening track, “Feel the Love,” to the bonus track, “Au Revoir,” the disc is packed with infectious tunes that superbly combine Antoine’s nylon-string guitar and Brown’s electric guitar. Here are two musicians who clearly admire each other’s differences – classically-trained Antoine is known for his easygoing, melodic songs, while Brown is known for his funk infusions – and get a kick out of writing and playing together, and melding those differences to form an album of pure enjoyment. Throughout the CD, their guitars harmonize seamlessly together, and their differences only seem to be strengthened and enhanced by each other.
The second song on the disc, “Wine Night,” is a mellow yet upbeat song inspired by dinners at Brown’s house with his various oenophile friends, but the entire album would be perfect for accompanying such an evening, as each song has a very social, celebratory undertone. The title song is another wonderful mid-tempo party.

“Flight of the Conchords” is samba-inspired fun, with Brown and Antoine also playing various percussion. The song is more suited to Antoine’s background, but Brown rises to the challenge and handles the Brazilian style and straight-ahead jazz chord changes with ease. Two other songs, “On the Down Low” and “Sweetness” are also tinged with a Brazilian samba flavor, with Lenny Castro setting a nice percussive beat to the latter.

Midway through the album, the songs kick it up a notch with the addition of a stellar horn section that includes Jerry Hey on keys, Bill Richenback on trombone, and Dan Higgins on saxophone. I would like to have heard a little more of such a talented horn section, but let’s face it, they’re not the stars on this CD – it’s all Antoine and Brown, which is a very good thing.

Inspired by drummer Earl Palmer, who passed away during the recording of Foreign Xchange, “Brother Earl” is a blues/funk-flavored back-and-forth that makes you want to get up and move. “French Connection,” appropriately, features some wonderful solo work from the Paris-born Antoine, which Brown matches wonderfully. The horns are back for this song, but not overpowering, allowing some of the best work on the album from Antoine and Brown to shine through.

“Bridges of Paris” is a song that truly evokes the idea of its title, with some accordion-sounding keys, and touches of flute provided by Jessy J. If you close your eyes, you can easily imagine walking along the Seine at dusk – the song simply draws you in.

Note should also be made of the other musicians on the disc, especially Philippe Saisse, on keys and Roberto Vally on bass. They all shine, but never overpower the main attraction – the back-and-forth play of Antoine and Brown. Just as Antoine and Brown have shared their love of music with each other and us, this is a CD to share with friends. So lift a class of wine to this wonderful team, and let’s hope there will be many more collaborations between them in the future.