There was a review series I began back in Bird is the Worm‘s infancy stage titled Know Your Sideman. It was to highlight artists who have participated on a series of solid recordings without ever really putting one out with their own name in large print as session leader. It was a nice idea, but for a variety of reasons, that review series never quite took off. That said, there’s no doubt that bassist Nicolas Moreaux would have merited a column for his work.
His 2013 release Fall Somewhere is just outstanding. It’s not his first album. His 2009 release Beatnick hit my radar, but never enough to completely draw me in. But in the interval, Moreaux has been showing up on a number of excellent recordings as a bassist. Most recently, albums by Pierre Perchaud, Olivier Boge, Sophie Alour, and a current project with saxophonist Jeremy Udden which will, hopefully, result in a proper recording.
Fall Somewhere, however, is a huge step up. It has some of the richest melodies to hit my ears lately, and while they make statements that are exquisitely memorable, their wealth is derived in how they’re developed over the course of songs rather than from their immediate impact (which is substantial). A double-disc that includes a strong line-up of ongoing collaborators and new partners, Moreaux brings together the musicians’ varied sounds into a singular potent concoction, resulting in an album I’ve found positively addictive.
Your album personnel: Nicolas Moreaux (bass), Bill McHenry (
Most tracks possess a dreamy presence, and drift languidly from first note to last, rarely breaking their spell, even those times when the pulse rate rises. The album opens with “Far,” a tune that skips right along at a nice clip, yet never sounds hurried. Saxophone delivers a delicate intonation and an evocative punch. Guitar creates little eddies of notes, sending out ripples that blend in with the ensemble sound. And on a track like “Summer Fishing,” where guitar flexes its muscle and sax turns up the heat, these are only interludes that fall between softly drifting moments of lilting melody and friendly rhythmic chatter.
Tracks move in a circular pattern, returning to spot from whence they launched themselves out into the expanse of a song. The melody is their signpost, the rhythm an engine.
“Baroc” is one of the more consistently upbeat tunes. Saxophones hang their hat on the melody. Drums beat out the shape of a smile. There are a couple interludes where everyone stands up and shouts, but for the most part, it’s an amicable, though boisterous, exchange of notes. “The Incall” turns up the heat, lets sax set fire to notes. “Each Other’s Light” plays with tempo, building up to sections that allow saxes to flail about ecstatically before falling back into the stream of the song.
“Oak” brings a nifty texture to the album. Acoustic guitar works the rhythmic side of things, but the steel strings can’t help but add a deliciously rustic quality to the gentle saxophone expressions, each enhancing the impact of the other via their related but contrasting voices. Deeper into the song, piano moves in with some lines that, for all intents and purposes, are disassociated from what the rest of the ensemble are doing, and yet, just as a surfer and a wave are entirely different entities, in motion they are one, presenting a fluid unison that all comes together when viewed as a single expression.
The title-track “Fall Somewhere” and “Cool Water” represent the opposite poles of this recording. The former is a diffuse tune that challenges the concept of structure, whereas the latter brings in a guest vocalist for an infusion of pop music. Even in their differentiation, neither sound out of place or dispel the album’s cohesion… in fact, they bring a greater clarity to the rest of the album by framing each song by what it is and what it is not.
It’s been tough putting this album down. Too damn early in the year to be thinking about Best of 2013 lists, and yet here I am bringing up the subject. This album compels me to do it. It’s just that good.
Released on the Fresh Sound New Talent label.
Jazz from the Paris, France scene.