Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 12, No.4, 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
Arioli & Officer
Jean Félix Mailloux
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

Featured artists: BECKY NOBLE SEXTET

Robert J. Lewis © Becky Noble

Like a precious desert water hole around which dry mouths congregate, a crowd quickly gathered to immerse itself in the inspired sounds coming from the CBC stage where Becky Noble and her sextet were playing their very first 2013 Montreal International Jazz Festival.

The term BC Jazz might not yet be current, but with the likes of the Jensen sisters (Christine and Ingrid), who performed earlier in the festival, and Madame Krall, and now Becky Noble, the music makes the case that it’s a term whose time has come.

Winners of the prestigious 2012 Jazz En Rafale’s Best New Talent contest, which included a prized recording contract, Becky Noble and bandmates proved that they are the real deal and a deal that will enhance the Effendi label’s prestige and scope.

The Montreal Jazz Festival was the perfect occasion to debut their just released album entitled Salish Folk Song that features nine tracks of finely crafted original material and the Beatle’s “Norwegian Wood.” Salish, by the way, refers to the language of the First Nations people who originally occupied an area near Vancouver.

If it is one of the presets of the genre that jazz musicians are typically caught between playing for the moment and writing for eternity, Becky Noble has productively taken up the cause of the latter. From one movement to the next, there is a strong emphasis on composition (melody), with the vertical thrust supplied by harmonies that are sometimes orchestral in their effects, all of which is enhanced by the very tactful handling of unusual time signatures.

Far too often in jazz, affected time signatures are employed to mask weak composition, a temptation Noble avoids throughout the entire CD with the exception of “The Banana Fish Variations,” which is nonetheless an adventure that can withstand repeated listening thanks to the superb guitar work of Nick di Giovanni, whose spacey indigo-electric sound seems to come from far away, as if he were positioned in the back of the recording studio. Happily, this is not the case when you hear him live, where his clean and keenly crafted sound is right up front; no surprise that his solos invariably generate considerable audience appreciation.

Virtuosity is another temptation deftly side-stepped by each and every member of this sparkling sextet. In particular, the pianist Marie-Fatima Rudolph, whose solo in “Nature Girl” is less of a solo and more of an impressionistic tableau which adds an entirely new dimension to one of the CD’s strongest tracks. Her vocalese, perhaps sourced from Pat Metheny’s 1987 Still Life, is a veritable celebration of life in all its joy shaped by and through the intricacies of "la voix humaine."

To be noted with an asterisk is the understated but conceptually considerate accompaniment of percussionist Mark Nelson who doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to providing flexible structure and variety of textures to the many musical ideas that radiate throughout this collection.

And finally, and with quiet authority, the confident and imaginative sax playing and arrangements of Becky Noble, a survivor and tragic witness to human folly, whose plaintive solo on “Sun Salutation” is nothing less than her confession to the world. Notes that begin in the breath, pass through metal and emerge as flesh and sound before falling mute, coming up for air before going under again, transmuted into phrasing that buckles and stutters and reminds us that unhappiness makes happiness possible. However, what could have been the jewel in this crown of music is undermined by a false ending, an engineered studio fade that abandons the listener in the uncertainty of a dangling dénouement to the effect that Noble not only betrays the first principles of composition but her already well established high standards.

But this false note is small compared to what is large and promising in Becky Noble, whose debut CD is in equal parts agreeably challenging and accessible.

What next? Since first albums are invariably spontaneous and authentic distillations of early life written as music, second albums are often a letdown, lacking in urgency and the raw materials of life that informed the first. What is too often learned the hard way (or the wrong way) is that creation does not abide by deadlines or recording contracts, nor can it be forced or fed into the formula of past success. Will Becky Noble’s second album take its cue from a composition like the heartfelt “Sun Salutation” or the more intellectual “The Bananafish Variations?” I will wait for as long as it takes for the right answer.

Photo© Robert J. Lewis


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