Recommended: Jean Lapouge – “Plein Air”


When Jean Lapouge assembles a guitar trio, he doesn’t take the road most traveled.  His excellent 2011 release Temporare created a fascinating patchwork of melodic roots and thick harmonic blooms around the trombone of Christiane Bopp and the vibes and oboe of Christian Paboeuf.  The 2012 release Des Enfants worked similar territory, though it was more bedtime lullaby as compared to the wry “Tales From the Far Side” smile of Temporare.  The closest thing to a conventional guitar trio from Lapouge is the 2011 release Plaything, which compiled previous tracks recorded with long-time collaborators, bassist Kent Carter and drummer Jeff Boudreux.  But even this recording was a half-way meeting point between the prog-y fusion of Lapouge’s Noetra collective sound and an ECM Records guitar-led album… so not exactly standard fare.

And now, in 2014, Lapouge is at it again.  Fresh out of the recording studio, Lapouge has assembled cellist Grégoire Catelin and drummer David Muris for Plein Air.  And while this album is more guitar-centered than previous recordings, the cello-drums combination, thankfully, has it falling squarely outside conventional territory.

Immediately, the airy chatter of opening track “Par la côte” is a striking difference from past endeavors.  The quick-stepped tempo and the dispersal of melody across its surface is a far cry from the patient, heavy expressiveness of prior recordings.

And it’s interesting to see how Lapouge’s guitar alters its shape now that he’s partnered with the elegance of cello, taking the spot once occupied by a burlier trombone, as well as the switching out of vibraphone for drums, substituting the vibes’ lyricism for drums’ more direct lines of communication.  It results in an environment more conducive for Lapouge to follow melodic avenues as far as they’ll take him.  An additional benefit is cello’s ability to follow right along at a comparable speed and a similar arc with drums setting down trail markers, either before or after the fact.

The smoky presence of cello asserts itself on “Acteur fétiche,” and the trio finds the sweet spot between ballad and blast-off, as the song shifts from a sound of enchantment to one far more volatile.  And tracks like “Mario” and “Un hymne” open with languorous passages that shift into weightier passages that reach a frenzy.

“Anna Karénine” is perhaps the closest instance of revisiting a Temporare sound, as cello attains a booming resonance that serves the dual purpose of harmonic device and melodic propulsion.

The album ends with “Cloches,” a song expressed as a murmur and as unhurried as clouds in a calm sky.  It’s the other side of the coin to album-opener “Par la côte,” and further illustrates how the new guitar trio dynamic provides Lapouge fresh melodic possibilities.  It also reveals a new facet to Lapouge’s ability to create strange and unconventional music of a personable, unassuming nature.  Odd, friendly and absorbing.

Your album personnel:  Jean Lapouge (guitar), Grégoire Catelin (cello) and David Muris (drums).

Released on Musea/Great Winds Records.

Listen to more of the album on the artist’s Bandcamp page.

Cover art by François Lapouge.

Jazz from the Périgueux, France scene.

Available at:  Bandcamp | Amazon

Other things you should probably know:

Jean Lapouge - "Des Enfants"You can read my recommendation of Lapouge’s Des Enfants on this site by following this LINK.  I still return to it often and recommend it just as much as I did originally.  I find that it hits me pretty similar to how Bill Frisell’s Quartet recording does.

You can read my recommendation of Lapouge’s Temporare on this site by following this LINK.  I still listen to this one often, too.  The column is just a small synopsis that I included in my Best of 2011 recap, back when I first began this site.