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Inspired by an off-hand comment comes Cote d'écoute, a recording of Radio Canada TV theme songs that is full-bodied and mature, dispensing with the shtick that can hamper such material. It turns out that Remi Bolduc was looking for his own folk music when the recommendation came, and it provided a link to his childhood and the sounds he was looking for: those which helped form a foundation and function as a sort of musical bedrock for him.
Make no mistake about Cote d'écoute, roughly translated to "Dimension of Listening": these aren't cheap or shallow covers of hammy television themes you may remember from cheesy shows from your childhood. Bolduc and his compatriots perform music that fits more in line with a songbook series, not unlike the approach taken by Oscar Peterson, where each performance is rife with potential and improvisational openness while still belonging to the popular, often jubilant vernacular.
Bolduc plays with a robust alto tone that sometimes comes close to sounding like a tenor. Recorded with a clarity that allows for listeners to even hear the pads of his horn in sections, he plays with invention throughout that encompasses both fire and a sugary playfulness. His four-minute solo feature "Le Temps d'une Paix allows him to flex quite mightily from languid tones to speedy runs that come close but never veer into a purely technical realm.
With a doubt, Bolduc feels at home and in complete command on all these pieces, from the solo workout to the sing-song opening of the following track, "Bobino, where pianist John Roney follows his every note verbatim in the higher register, creating a dizzying chase-like feel. And while the theme of "Bobino almost borders on the saccharine, once Bolduc, Roney, and cellist Sheila Hannigan take hold and work on its basic musical structure, they transform it into a viable vehicle for improvisation.
The musicians often pair up and follow the pace of another, even into climaxes like the one on "Sol et Gobelet, but the larger statements are made individually. Hannigan especially shines in her various features, imbuing the music with a personality unmistakably colored by her instrument.
Throughout Cote d'écoute, Bolduc, Roney, and Hannigan are lyrical and fleet-fingered. Fortunately the songs Bolduc picked are often hearty enough to house both tribute and improvisations without losing their personality or sounding too cliche. The album's roughly hour-long length may be its only harbinger for listeners, but for those who find consistent enjoyment in albums of unabashed fun and beauty, Cote d'écoute is a strong choice. And as odd as TV theme music may sometimes appear to be, this album proves that this material can be a viable mode of expression in the right hands.
Track Listing: Fanfreluche; Grujot et Délicat; Terre humaine; Le Temps d'une paix; Bobino; La Souris Verte; Sol et Gobelet; Moi et l'autre; Rue des Pignons; La Ribouldingue; Picotine.