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Reviewed by Abraham Kunin

Alexis French: The Cut

Reviewed by Abraham Kunin

Alexis French: The Cut

This Rattle Jazz release announces the homecoming of ex-pat trumpeter and composer Alexis French, returning as an honors graduate from Montreal’s McGill University.

A collection of original compositions, the album features some great young Canadian musicians, likely studying alongside French. It also features Rattle label head Steve Garden’s signature warm, soft, and bubbly production sound, which borrows from both traditional and modern approaches.

There is a definite vivacity about the sessions which has been translated well and is present right from first number The Schroon, with a rousing hard-bop vibe and Wayne Shorter-esque harmonies in the head. As second track Metro demonstrates, both the playing and recorded sound of Nicolas Bedard’s upright bass are standouts (although it runs a little hot sometimes), particularly as they have favoured bringing out the tonal attributes of the instrument over burying it in the low end of the mix. A lot of afrocentric 12/8 grooves pop up throughout the album, lending the lift and vitality befitting a young composer (or ensemble) realising the limitations a straight swing outing might have had on their audience.

Alymer is a clever piece, starting with a familiar sounding melody which reharmonises into something much more angular. It may just be the instrument line up, but Speak No Evil comes to mind once more here, especially in French and saxophonist David Bellemare’s ensemble playing. That’s definitely meant as a compliment. The Second Fall is a well-placed ballad utilising a beautiful duet section between trumpet and bass. It also features a tastefully accompanied solo from Nicolas Ferron who has a lush guitar tone and good thought in his harmonic and spacial decisions. The title track is maybe one of my lesser choices off the album, perhaps because its busy-ness makes for a less immediate number, though its intricacies and interplay may well unravel with further listens. It’s good to hear the group stretch out a little on the stabby Up, with a cooking tempo, and some great drum fills in head. Shakshuka rounds out the release with its cool rhythmic tag used as a punchline after sections.

I felt a real satisfaction in hearing a collection of forward-thinking compositions, played with modern approaches, but also heart and sincerity, manifesting the next generation of notable jazz music. Great stuff.

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