Nov 4 2014
Essences des Bois, the new release by pianist Yves Léveillé is so pretty at times, it’s stunning. It’s a session heavy with wind instruments, but delivered in a way that never feels weighted down. In fact, it’s the balance between the loftiness of the wind instruments and the grounding force of the rhythm section that provides for the most wonderful shift between friction and cohesion, and it’s why these tracks sometimes sound as if soaring above the horizon and other times just over the surface of the earth.
The album’s first half is very strong. “Perceptible” starts things off with inviting phrases, setting the table for a nice, casual sax solo. But it’s the inviting bursts of piano, accompanied by the patter of drums, and the way the wind instruments lift off from those phrases that makes this simple song emanate a complex beauty.
On the next track, “Sur la passerelle,” again sees the woodwinds playing off piano’s action. Except this time around, the woodwinds coast atop the crests of piano’s melodic lines before lifting off and gliding just over the surface of the rhythm’s water. It’s one of the prettiest songs I’ve heard in all of 2014.
“Monarque” is more of the same thing, but now with a pronounced beat. Previously, piano and drums have worked in tandem, but this time drums adopt a bit of a martial cadence. It’s a switch mirrored by the woodwinds, who flutter with a greater force than previous tracks. Wind instruments, in general, seem less in concert with the rhythm section, but the two sections mirror each others activity and motion and intensity, and it boils down to a nice mix of contrast and cohesion.
“En Marche” works similar territory to that of “Sur la passerelle,” but woodwinds keep to a lower register and imply a distinct gravity. The effect is a similar beauty, a similar flight pattern, but with heavier flaps of the wings and a stronger pulse.
The second half of the album sees a bit of a drop-off. There’s nothing wrong with any of the tracks, but they also don’t do anything to distinguish themselves from the pack. “Foret” reaches for the drama, making big statements with bravado. “Ascendant” gets a bit of a mild Latin thing going, while also providing a nice vehicle for flute and drums to get some time in the spotlight. “Jonglerie” has a vaguely mesmerizing opening anchored to bursts of piano phrases, but the song never quite blooms. It still generates plenty of beauty, but not much in the way of character. The album ends with the ballad “Distance.” It has a nice, welcoming melody, but it lacks the arresting personality of its predecessors.
It’s unfortunate that the last few tracks really lose the steam generated by the first half of the album. But, damn, what a first half it was, and that alone earns it a strong recommendation.
Your album personnel: Yves Léveillé (piano), Roberto Murray (saxophones), Adrian Vedady (double bass), Alain Bastien (drums), François Richard (flutes), Marjorie Tremblay (oboe, English horn), and Simon Aldrich (clarinets).
Released on Effendi Records.
Jazz from the Quebec, Canada scene.
Available at: eMusic