Featured artist: IVANHOE JOLICOEUR
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.
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
a singer/percussionist who marries the sounds of Ghana and the
rhythms of Cuba to the intensity of life in the 21st century.
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.
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.
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.
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.