Bernard Primeau: Liaisons (2005)
Many mainstream recordings have a flat feeling, giving the impression of the (technically proficient) players going through the motions. That is decidedly not the case with Liaisons. Bernard Primeau is not a drummer as soloist, but rather the engine behind and underneath the proceedings. He is always there making sure the sails never sag, constantly pushing the group forward, and in fact there are a few times when the music feels like it's speeding up. This is not to say that the rest of the rhythm section, pianist John Roney and drummer David Watts, just sit by and watch the music happen. The rhythm section, as a group, is a great unit, allowing the ensemble to sound bigger than a septet (guitarist Philip Catherine guests with Primeau's sextet). The most obvious precedent to Primeau's main esthetic is Art Blakey, whose rhythmic and group feel is evoked effectively, without hero worship, on "Groan'in and "The Message.
The arrangements are always interesting, maintaining a hold on the ear and mind without getting fussy or overly complicated. The ensemble playing is very tight, and each soloist gets a chance to have his say. Picking out one might seem unfair, but Bruno Lamarche has a tenor saxophone sound that is as smooth as warm butter. Through the various arrangers, Primeau gives Catherine a bit more solo space than would be usual for a guest performer, and the guitarist changes back and forth from a distorted sound that inches the music towards a jazz-rock feel at times. However, he never overwhelms the band, and in fact contributes the beautiful ballad "B.A.
The end of the record is given over to a fascinating, nearly three-minute drum solo by Primeau where he plays music, not merely rhythm, and an instrument, not just the drums. The track ends too quickly, leaving me wanting more. In fact, the whole record ends too quickly. The highest form of compliment I can give is that this band should be recorded live, so we can hear how they really sound, and feel how an audience can be swept away, smiling all the while.
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Track Listing: Street Mode; Groan'in; Times Past; Crusher's Last Stand; B.A. (Beatrice); The Message; Alternative System; Solo pour Batteurs.
Personnel: Bernard Primeau: drums; Philip Catherine: guitar; David Watts: bass; John Roney: piano; Bruno Lamarche: tenor saxophone; David Grott: trombone; Bill Mahar: trumpet.
Record Label: Swing'in Time