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Vol. 6, No. 3, 2007

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Montreal Jazz Festival 2005 EMI Classics







Piano Keyboard


Robert J. Lewis


Featured artist: IVANHOE JOLICOEUR
© Marcel Dubois

A bathyscaphe is a self-propelled, deep-sea diving submersible. It’s also an apt metaphor for the consummately crafted, clean jazz of Ivanhoe Jolicoeur and his first album, Ivanhoe Jolicoeur and Bathyscaphe. From the opening bars, listeners are introduced to meticulously sculpted soundscapes of feeling as nuanced as they are deep. The surfaces run the gamut from smooth to turbulent, a faithful ‘measure for measure’ of the man emoting the music.

Jolicoeur’s first CD was a long time coming because for especially jazz musicians, talent often guarantees and preserves only itself. During the lean years, he honed his craft playing the club circuit, eventually becoming a leading exponent of Montreal jazz. The city’s best musicians will tell you that Jolicoeur is as notable as every notable with whom he has played. He’s also a gifted arranger. In fact, he’s so good at it the demand hasn’t allowed him the time needed for his own projects. Until recently, he toured with the internationally successful group Les Cowboys Fringants, writing and arranging the group’s vibrant horn section, and provided the same for Namori, a singer/percussionist who marries the sounds of Ghana and the rhythms of Cuba to the intensity of life in the 21st century.

Jolicoeur has been around long enough to know that life’s highlights and lowlights don’t always cancel each other out. Even the up tempo tracks reveal a spirit that has been beaten down only to rise again and face the universal longing that speaks to dreams reality forces us to abandon. For Jolicoeur, music isn’t just a past time; it provides his ground and purpose -- the cornerstones of his quietly contagious nobility.

Despite what might be characterized as a conservative collection of compositions, the entire CD is full of surprises and delicious unpredictables that will appeal to audiences for whom the straight sextet sound is the best answer to the music’s depth and diversity that allows nothing for granted, a result partly owed to the fact that Ivan’s bathyscaphers are a group of highly accomplished and disciplined musicians.

Except for the uncertain piano on the first track, the soloing throughout is top-notch; virtuosity is eschewed in deference to theme and idea. On an instrument that is rarely given its due, the trombone, Mark Tremblay’s playing is of ear-opening significance. Both Tremblay and Jolicoeur provide textbook elucidation on the inviolable laws to which every proper solo is subject: that it is directional -- with a beginning, middle and end -- and when well executed it always points to its position like the minute hand of a clock. Two of the best examples of this are found back to back on the cut “Choc.” On the trumpet this time (he also plays flugelhorn), Jolicoeur is an electric glide in blue, sometimes serene, sometimes looking back in anger before resigning himself to the notion that music is in equal parts a privilege and justification of every musician’s life. In a seamless transition, Tremblay takes over the theme, but offers a highly personalized and affecting account of it, this time wonderfully supported by pianist Gaètan Daigneault, whose filling in is sometime so dead-on it could stand on its own as composition. He reminds us all that having a good ear means being a good listener.

Be as it may that the music of Ivanhoe Jolicoeur doesn’t break new ground, it deserves to find audiences outside the Quebec jazz scene because the music, in its grace and unpretentiousness, does honour to the unadulterated sound of jazz’s founding instruments, recalling an era from which jazz has become estranged as it offers itself to every new gimmick on the block. Beyond that, if Ivanhoe Jolicoeur and Bathyscaphe is to have a life beyond the initial excitement a CD launching generates, the players will finally have to make the music their first priority, which means committing themselves to the hard work of introducing original material to a public for whom the want hasn’t yet been sufficiently excited.

Listen to "Choc."

Wes Montgomery
Paco de Lucia
Joe Pass
Miles Davis
T. Monk
The Bird
Dizzy G.
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