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Published: Friday, 1/9/2004

Brothers engineer brainy jazz

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Moutin Reunion's style of jazz can sound a bit cerebral at times. But that shouldn't be surprising: The quartet, which performs tomorrow at Murphy's Place, is led by French twins who earned advanced degrees in physics and mathematics.

"At first, I found the music kind of difficult to play," saxophonist Rick Margitza said.

It's not that Margitza is unfamiliar with complex, top-level jazz.

A Detroit native who used to play in Toledo occasionally at Rusty's Jazz Cafe, Margitza toured with Maynard Ferguson, Flora Purim, and Airto Moreira before moving to New York in 1988 and being hired by Miles Davis.

He also cut three albums as a bandleader for Blue Note Records between 1988 and 1991.

Margitza, 41, joined the Moutin Reunion - led by Louie Moutin on drums and Francois on bass - about 1<0x00BD> years ago and moved to Paris last August. Completing the quartet's lineup on the current tour is Pierre de Bethmann, subbing for the band's regular pianist, Baptiste Trotignon.

"They play a lot of odd-meter stuff, stuff I wasn't used to playing," Margitza said. "I was not sure at first if I was going to like it or they were going to like me. I didn't know if it would be right. But as I began to familiarize myself with the band, I got more comfortable. Now I'm having a blast."

The Moutins were born in Paris on Christmas Eve, 1961. Francois studied guitar at age 5 and piano at 11 before developing a passion for the acoustic bass as a teenager.

He studied engineering and earned a doctorate in physics at age 24 before opting for a career in music.

Louie taught himself to play piano as a child and switched to drums at age 20. He earned a master's degree in mathematics at the Ecole Centrale but eventually gave up a career in technology for music.

"They are both serious math brains," Margitza said, adding that he never brings up subjects like quantum physics or radio telemetry because "I'm afraid they would talk about it all night."

The Moutin brothers performed with a number of European jazz groups and artists before teaming up in 1991.

When it comes to musical affinity, few can match the Moutin brothers, Margitza said.

"It's definitely fun watching them perform. Obviously it's uncanny to watch two twins play, but they also have a definite 'ESP' thing going, especially with them playing bass and drums."

Much of the duo's original music is "intricate," Margitza said, not only relying on unusual time signatures but often incorporating a series of rhythmic changes or blending different rhythms simultaneously.

"Louie plays some stuff that has three or four rhythmic layers going on," he said.

Margitza, who studied at Wayne State University, Berklee College of Music, the University of Miami, and Loyola University, said moving from New York to Paris was "always kind of a fantasy for me." His work with the Moutins made it more possible, plus, he said, the City of Lights offers more opportunities for his solo career.

"In New York, there are either high-profile clubs like the Blue Note or the [Village] Vanguard, or there are clubs in the East Village that pay $15 a night. There are two extremes.

"There's more of a middle ground in Paris," Margitza said. "I can play once or twice a month at three or four of the main clubs and make some decent money. Plus Paris is so central to Europe. I can take advantage of the scene in Italy, Germany, or Spain."

He said he is working on a solo album for the Nocturne label that will incorporate world music, hip-hop, gypsy, and jazz elements.

The Moutin Reunion performs at 9 and 11 p.m. tomorrow at Murphy's Place, 151 Water St. Admission is $10. Information and reservations: 419-241-7732.



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