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Frédéric Alarie: Tap Bass (2004)

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Jazz, by its very nature, is a sharing act. Any musical format based on group improvisation cannot help but be about sharing and, to some extent, democracy. Tap Bass , journeyman Montreal bassist Frédéric Alarie's sixth album as a leader (and first in five years), takes this spirit of sharing to some interesting lengths—to its benefit.

This is Alarie's first CD on the Québec-based Effendi label. Let's hope it's not his last: Alarie's music benefits greatly from the Effendi trademarks of classy, elegant packaging and crisp, limpid sound (it would not be outrageously glib to call them the ECM of the Great White North). Alarie is a fine jazz composer; so fine, in fact, that his originals split the CD almost evenly with some remarkable numbers (Bill Evans' "Time Remembered," John Abercrombie's "Ralph's Piano Waltz," and others) with no noticeable loss of excellence.

Alarie's quartet—featuring Jean-Francois Groulx on piano, Jon Geary on guitar, and Camil Belisle on drums, with guest spots from Josée Blondin on reeds and flute and Luc Beaugrand on piano—play a very modern, contemplative acoustic post-post-bop (one struggles to avoid citing ECM, but it's no use: this is a very ECM-sounding group). They shine on slow-churning mid-tempo numbers, and Alarie's compositions, such as "Deux Eaux" and "G.A.," are constructed to frame the soloists to often stunning effect. Jon Geary, in particular, plays marvelously in a style at times reminiscent of late 1970s Pat Metheny; he's so good, and so featured, that had the album been packaged as a two- leader collaboration, one would not be disappointed.

But Alarie is extraordinarily generous to all his musicians, with marvelous results. This generosity's only possible downside would be the album's opener, Luc Beaugrand's "Brico," on which the composer guests on piano, and plays so dominantly that one would swear this was his album: perhaps not the best way for the CD to begin. Still, no one can show up the leader, whose bass playing during the entire album is melodic, contrapuntal, virtuosic—and that's his comping. His solos are even better.

In fact, it is due to Alarie's great talent as composer and musician that he can share so much of his spotlight with his fellow players, and so much of his album with his fellow composers. Let's hope he doesn't wait another five years for his next one.

Track Listing: 1. Brico 2. I'm old fashion [sic] 3. No string's [sic] attached 4. Water is wide 5. Ralph's piano waltz 6. Lisa 7. D.N. 8. Deux eaux 9. Tap bass 10. G.A. 11. Time remember [sic]

Personnel: Frédéric Alarie, acoustic bass; Jean-Francois Groulx, piano; Jon Geary, guitar; Camil Belisle, drums, with Josée Blondin (#3 and #8), alto and soprano sax, flute), and Luc Beaugrand (#1), piano.

Record Label: Effendi Records

Style: Modern Jazz


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