Aug 29 2015
Chamber music, jazz and folk are the three faces presented by the Yves Rousseau 4tet on Akasha, the bassist’s newest. But these faces are merely masks, the removal of one revealing the next in an unending stream of change to where all three influences ultimately flow into one confluence of imagery. The sensation is one where solid ground is felt shifting calmly underfoot, and where grace abides where uncertainty might otherwise rule. It’s where challenging music becomes as welcoming as a morning sunrise.
The album opens with the 3-part “L’eau” suite, immediately displaying the quartet’s approach of shifting the melody’s focus from one of firm pronouncement to one of elusive intent. Melodies possess a vague familiarity and the distinct tunefulness of enduring folk songs. But just when their presence seems to have fully defined the composition’s parameters, the quartet transforms the melodies into launching points for improvisation and unforeseen developments. These transitions are surely crafty, but it’s their emotional punch that is their most arresting quality.
The 2-part “Le Feu” walks into the room with a boisterous, pop tune persona that bounces happily for the length of its two-minute opening salvo. The composition’s lengthier second part sees the quartet gliding into an extended chamber jazz expression. A saxophone solo dances gracefully on the head of a pin while violin bathes the tune in warm harmonic washes and the rhythm section bops along with determination and zeal.
But it’s the 2-part “L’air” that distinguishes itself as the gem of the recording. Within the span of sixteen minutes, the quartet makes its strongest pronouncements of the chamber, jazz and folk music ingredients that inform this recording. Vivid harmonic passages are the glue between strong melodic surges and punctuated rhythms. But most essential to the affair is the way in which “L’air” enmeshes the varied influences into a singular form of expression. It’s remarkable how the quartet is able to seamlessly incorporate the details and nuance of the disparate elements at the same time drawing with thicker lines and broader strokes.
That said, while the quartet earns the higher marks for level of technical difficulty, it’s the staggering beauty of the 2-part “L’air,” over and above the high standard set by the gorgeous tracks preceding it, that makes it such a compelling listen. That it also so happens to end the affair… finishing a very strong album with its strongest moments… is about as satisfying a conclusion as one could hope for.
There are two stand-alone tracks interspersed amongst the 2- and 3-part suites. “La Terre” is an extended sigh, a brief handful of minutes within that blissful state of peace between dwindling wakefulness and deep sleep. “Ether” exists in that same place, but instead of restful sleep, it embodies the unpredictable nature of fitful dreams. In addition to being lovely tunes, they also serve as handy interludes between the longer-form pieces.
An album with vast strength and presence to complement its stunning beauty.
Your album personnel: Yves Rousseau (double bass), Régis Huby (violins), Jean-Marc Larché (alto & soprano saxes) and Christophe Marguet (drums).
Listen to more of the album at the artist site.
Released on Abalone Productions.