If anyone has learned Roswell Rudd
remarkable lesson in the infinitely mammalian
voice simulations possible on the trombone, it's Jean-Nicholas Trottier. Quartet,
Trottier's small ensemble recordearlier in 2009 he released his first, big band recordfeatures the trombonist in almost splendid isolation, with only saxophonist Alexandre Côtè in play. Along with bassist Sébastien Pellerin and drummer Michel Berthiaume
, they ride wave-after-wave of spectacular musical expedition.
Trottier appears to harbor a chorus of voices in the six feet or so of brass tubing bent into the shape of his horn. There are few new musicians today who can play this challenging instrument with equal facility. His speech-like spears, grunts and growls humanize the instrument to such an extent that lips and air together form wordless notes. Jean-Nicholas Trottier also creates subtle overtones with ease. He conveys a sense of dramatic pathos when he expels great gushes of warm air through the seemingly ductile piping that rests on his thick shoulder. His solos are well-crafted, sometimes inside out and always full of darting runs and gray strokes that sear the ears and mind with their intensity.
The compositions have been crafted and polished to a fine degree. Reportedly worked on over a period of several years, Trottier and his quartet offer symbiotic renditions of his intelligent, rhythmically challenging and harmonically rich writing. There is a feeling of completeness about each of them and they often feature reverent nods towards a great pantheon of modern influences, from Thelonious Monk
and Herbie Nichols
to Rudd, Steve Lacy
and Ornette Coleman
. Throughout, Trottier navigates the melodies with gruff glissandi, creating a broad wake that inspires courageous outpourings from saxophonist, bassist and drummer.
"Street Meat" is a bluesy New Orleans march with spicy rhythmic twists and turns, from chorus to solos and back again. Many of the other compositions are intensely personal. "J'sessaie de voir" traces a battle for inspired perception. "Petite Pièce Bizarre," "J'sais pas trop," "24 Bars of Stupidité" and "20 Minutes Plus Tard" feature grim existential angst against which the artist struggles day after day. The melodies are humorous and extravagant harmonically; "Berceuse" is a surprisingly warm lullaby, while "3" is dark and funny.
Throughout, Trottier and Côtè play dramatic opposites. The trombonist is idiomatically spry and concrete, and the saxophonist is, at times, elastic and florid. Trottier's sharp stabs and deeply emotive phrases are always at a slant towards the melody, and they unfurl in great swathes of circular sound. Pellerin and Berthiaume cause a great stir in the music, fanning its fire and lengthening the resultant flames. There is an uncanny tightness to the group despite the looseness that the music almost always calls for.
It is a great travesty of justice that the Canadian national character is reticent and often shy of singing its own praise. If the opposite were to be so, in true North American fashion, Jean-Nicholas Trottier would be a lot better-known than he is today.
Personnel: Jean-Nicholas Trottier: trombone; Alexandre Côtè: soprano and alto saxophones; Sébastien Pellerin: bass; Michel Berthiaume: drums.