François Chesnel – “Kurt Weill Project: Le Voyant”


François Chesnel - "Kurt Weill Project Le Voyant"A 2013 release that I keep coming back to is the Kurt Weill Project: Le Voyant, by pianist François Chesnel.  It’s a tribute album to both composer Kurt Weill and poet Arthur Rimbaud.  Half of the album tracks are Weill compositions, while the other half are originals.

Of the originals, Chesnel adopts a moody disposition in contrast to the whimsical disposition of the Weill contributions.  “Arthur” is a ballad made from the substance of moonlight, with trumpeter Loustalot shining brightest.  The brooding “Il Pleut” features Chesnel’s piano out front, leading the quartet in a simple song of heartbreaking beauty.  And on “Le Voyant,” the addition of guest Michaud on French horn provides a positively uplifting quality without dispelling the song’s prevailing moody atmosphere… an inviting contrast, to be sure.  Still melancholy, but with a greater charge, “One and Only” features some nifty intertwining sounds between the trumpet and French horn of Loustalot and Michaud, but it’s the third strand of Surménian’s bass that binds the song into a satisfying whole.

The sole up-tempo Chesnel composition is “Berlin,” which gets set off by Mamane’s snappy drum work, setting the table for the other quartet members to fire off tangential lines of rhythmic interplay that serve the dual role of vague references of melody.

On the other hand, the Weill compositions are far cheerier.  “Salomon Song” has a snappy tempo that gets the foot tapping.  “Nana’s Lied” is on the quieter side of the spectrum, but elicits more of a contemplative atmosphere than it does one of melancholia.  “Alabama Song” has a touch of that contemplative nature, too, though piano and flugelhorn rip into the melody during whimsical interludes and give the song an appealing buoyancy.

Threepenny Opera’s “Liebeslied” is the freest number on the recording.  A discombobulated motion that sounds to act at differing speeds all in accordance with one another, molding a strange form of cohesion.

Even album opener “Prologue,” which sounds more in line with the Chesnel compositions, possesses a demeanor of hopefulness that separates it from its moodier counterparts.  And album closer “Epilogue” takes on a similar form of evocative display, bringing the curtain down with a satisfying finality and ambiguous emotional temperature.

Your album personnel:  François Chesnel (piano), Yoann Loustalot (trumpet, flugelhorn), Eric Surménian (contrabass), Ariel Mamane (drums), and guest:  Victor Michaud (French horn).

I’m always intrigued by the way certain recordings get into my bloodstream and don’t fade away.  Le Voyant is not one of my favorite albums of 2013.  I don’t find it particularly groundbreaking or exemplary in any way to noticeably differentiate it from the 2013 pack.  And yet, throughout the year, when I would flip through my music library just looking for something to play, invariably I would return to this fine recording.  Hell, I can’t even definitely state what it is about this recording that grabs me gently from time to time.  The moodiness I find appealing, with its accompanying cheerfulness, though tepid at times it may be.  I like some of the melodic treatment.  But mostly, I think it symbolizes that way creative pieces can have a strong effect on us, even when we can’t identify the reasons why.

Anyways, I think it’s pretty cool every time I encounter that kind of reaction, and so I wanted to get in a mention about one such recording.

Released on Sans Bruit.

Jazz from the Paris, France scene.

Available at:  eMusic | Amazon MP3