Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 12, No.1, 2013

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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
  Contributing Editors
David Solway
Louis René Beres
Nancy Snipper
Farzana Hassan
Daniel Charchuk
Samuel Burd
Andrée Lafontaine
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Serge Gamache Emanuel Pordes
Diane Gordon
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Chantal Levesque Denis Beaumont
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Jazz Contributors

Tommy Emmanuel
John Stetch
Susie Arioli
Coral Egan
Diana Krall
Stacey Kent
Carol Welsman
Aldo Romano
Denzal Sinclaire
Madeleine Peyroux
Bireli Lagrene
Sonido Isleño
Provost & Lachapelle
Kevin Breit
Sophie Milman
Annie Poulain
Badi Assad
Donato & Bouchard
Ingrid Jensen
John Roney
Russell Malone
David Binney
Kurt Rosenwinkel
Mimi Fox
Voo Doo Scat
Coral Egan
Martin Taylor
Jordan Officer
Melody Gardot
Jean Vanasse
Yves Léveillé
Sylvain Provost
Louciana Souza
Patricia Barber
Jill Barber
Corrine Bailey Rae
Chet Doxas
François Bourassa
Sylvain Luc
Neil Cowley
Marianne Trudel
Florence K
Terez Montcalm
Cyrus Chestnut
Tord Gustavsen
Sarah MK
Julie Lamontagne
Vincent Gagnon
2010 Montreal Guitar Show (Sylvan Luc)
2008 Jazz en Rafale Festival (Montreal) - Mar. 27th - April 5th -- Tél. 514-490-9613 ext-101 (featuring David Binney)
Montreal Jazz Festival 2010







Piano Keyboard


by Robert J. Lewis


Susie Arioli © quebecpop.comJordan Officer

In the great chain of being -- that offers but phantom glimpses of its inner workings -- the individual, one link among billions, is fated to be as invisible as he is replaceable. However, he does not accept his fate with equanimity, and over the course of a lifetime he may decide to isolate and invest in a particular sequence of that chain such that the meaning of his life will be inseparable from his relationship with it. In music, that can mean identifying with a specific genre or tradition of music, believing its value is directly related to its ability to endure through time.

Montreal’s Susie Arioli (the voice) and Jordan Officer (the guitar) have dedicated their careers to breathing new life into the American Songbook, a music that constitutes one of the great links in the chain of music.

Among the Songbook’s evergreens (the Canadian mot juste for The Standards supplied by Montreal jazz critic Juan Rodriguez) are the compositions of the Gershwin Brothers, George and Ira, who, in 1928, penned “Embraceable You,” which became the title of an album recorded in 1957 (released in 1995) by the young Chet Baker. Two songs on that classic album -- “Forgetful” and “There’s a Lull in My Life” -- are marvelously taken up by Arioli & Officer in their latest CD, All The Way (2012). The album also includes two other famous songs associated with Chet the Younger: “My Funny Valentine” and “Time After Time.”

What distinguishes the accomplished artist from the bloated category of wannabes is his ability to vibrate the chain in such a way that a minute section of it comes to the attention of the public. It is then incumbent upon the latter to decide whether or not the music is fit to last. So beginning with the Gershwins through Chet Baker, we reconnect with songs written and sung by brilliant (deceased) composers/musicians who are very much alive in the present in the voice and guitar and exquisitely wrought arrangements of Arioli & Officer.

As part of the on-going 2012 Montreal International Jazz Festival, their year end concert was easily one of the most satisfying jazz gigs of the year. It was wisely held in the more spacious Place des Arts to accommodate their growing fan base.

Perhaps more than voice and guitar, what discerning audiences are drawn to in Arioli & Officer is their inimitable sound: ivory smooth enough that you want to hold it in your hand, as fragile as crystal you’re afraid to drop and butterfly breezy and feather light – all of it impeccably fashioned to capture the spirit of The Standards, many of which they now own.

If it is the unstated goal of every musician to take formless acoustic space and organize it so that the music bears the name of the individual or group, there is no mistaking the Arioli-Officer sound, which has always been more than the sum of the parts they play. Listeners gravitate to their immaculate timbre and return to their recordings like tone addicts are drawn to the Sinatra voice or ecstasy addicts to the music of Richard Wagner. If you can’t get enough of Arioli & Officer it’s because you want to hear blades of grass grow or the scent of a favourite flower filling a room. Their sculpting of sound is perhaps their greatest achievement to date and bodes well for a much deserved international presence.

From the brush-soft percussion of Anthony Albine to the finger-sweet, superbly weighted bass notes of Rich Gossage, the melodies, taking flight on the hush-velvet voice of Arioli, instantly transform a venue into a favourite place listeners never want to leave. Their rewrites of “Forgetful” and “Husbands and Wives” easily take their place right along the originals. In their interpretations and arrangements, nothing is left to chance. The inspired pairing of voice and saxophone (Cameron Wallis) in the bridge of the achingly beautiful “There’s a Lull in My Life,” makes the case that the 4th dimension is a property of music.

Jordan Officer continues to evolve as a guitarist and he is already one of the genre’s most distinct if not among the very best. His playing is instantly recognizable in its unorthodox entries and exits, sudden stops and hesitations, madly inspired flourishes and memorable melody lines. He plays every solo as if the composer had asked him to write a guitar part that will be indelibly linked to the song.

Perhaps the greatest surprise of the evening was the discovery of the warmth and richness of Susie Arioli’s voice in the lower register, creamy and smooth like an avocado the palate can’t resist. That it has rather suddenly come to the fore in mid-career opens up all sorts of possibilities, including the expectation that she will spend a lot more time there, which will mean looking at the repertoire from a different angle.

As ambassadors of soundscapes that hearken back to a more civilized and polite era, Arioli & Officer, despite the hegemony of rap and hip-hip, have defied the odds by carving out in the present a cozy alcove where melody and polyphony can take a stand, which is good news for listeners looking to side-step music that is all anger and sledgehammer.

Suzie Arioli and Jordan Officer are at the very top of their game and word is finally getting out.


John Coltrane
Miles Davis
Thelonius Monk
Charlie Mingus
Oscar Peterson
Charlie Parker
Dizzy Gillespie
Wes Montgomery
Ornette Coleman
Louis Armstrong
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