Michel Berthiaume: Departure (2010)
Berthiaume is a very active participant in the music scene in Montreal and appears to be favored by instrumentalistsespecially trombone playersand vocalists as well. This says a great deal about his ability to be a lead voice and a sensitive accompanist. And the fact that he is a wonderful bedfellow of the trombone, which is an instrument close to the human voice, speaks volumes with an ability to converse musically with deep expression, subtle inflection, and sometimes as the "other" singing voice in the harmony of the song. This is heard throughout Departure, but especially on "Stupide et Chanceux" and "Perfect Solitude." The first of these tracks describes the naiveté of youth and employs very subtle shifts in rhythmic coloration that is beautifully executedfirst with superb introduction and then with gentle changes in tempo up and down the choruses. On the second track the drummer plays in 7/4 rhythm, but it is the clever shading and timbre of his playing that is so attractive.
Another striking aspect of this album is the relationship between the instruments. It is rather rare to find piano and guitar both exchanging somewhat prominent roles in music. But here, there's no clash or argumentative chatter in the rhythm section of the ensemble. In fact, pianist Josh Rager and guitarist Kenny Bibace appear to find room to breathe and express themselves with wonderful dynamics adding more color to enrich the music. On "Departure" this is fresh and expansive, and with the light and sonorous aspect of an electric piano, the brightness is considerable when the two get together on "Complementary."
But the most striking relationship is between brass and percussion. It seems that Bill Mahar and Berthiaume can read each others' mind and emotions; tiptoeing and dancing around in a sanguine manner. It truly feels like the music sings in harmony, with Mahar's trumpet or flugelhorn leading Berthiaume's varied and colorful percussion down melodic paths. "Bic Forest" and "Complementary" are two extraordinary examples of thisthe latter takes a superb turn when Sage Reynolds joins in on bass.
Taken as a whole, Departure marks a strong debut by Berthiaume.
Track Listing: Stupide et Chanceux; Perfect Solitude; Departure; Different Paths; Bic Forest; Complementary; Let's See.
Personnel: Bill Mahar: trumpet; Josh Rager: piano; Kenny Bibace: guitar; Sage Reynolds: double bass; Michel Berthiaume: drums.
Record Label: XXI-21 Productions
Style: Modern Jazz