How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
My exposure to Effendi Records has been a felicitous one. Time after time, the label has exposed me to unfamiliar names, primarily those of Montréal-based musicians, only to reveal that these names belong to jazz musicians of the highest caliber. This CD is no exception.
Frédéric Alarie is a Montréal-born bassist whose 15-year career has earned him an enviable reputation among the best-known names in Canadian jazz. For example, Saison Jazz Montréal in Québec named Alarie the Best New Artist of 1997. He has performed at several editions of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal. In addition, his participation on three recordings ( What Is the Color of Love, Little Zab, and Virage ), together with his own CD Vision, resulted in several nominations and a Félix award. (The Félix award, given on an annual basis to artists in Quebec, is voted on by members of Association du disque, de l'industrie du spectacle québécois, or ADISQ, in contrast to the Juno Award, whose nominations are based on record sales.)
Tap Bass is Alarie's sixth disc and his first for Effendi. This is post bop, "cool" jazz of the highest order; its entire musical fabric reflects the essence of Alarie's art: maximum expression with minimum show. Six of the selections are originals; composers of the remaining include Luc Beaugrand ("Brico"), Jerome Kern and Johnny Mercer ("I'm Old Fashioned"), John Abercrombie ("Ralph's Piano Waltz"), and Bill Evans ("Time Remembered"). "Water Is Wide" is traditional, this meditative version inspired by that of Charles Lloyd. The interaction between bass and guitar is especially noteworthy on the entire CD.
The album's opener is one of my favorites, medium tempo "avec une élégante nonchalance," as the French liner notes so classically state. "I'm Old Fashioned" is a 1 ¼-minute, delicious guitar solo, just one chorus long. Next are a riff-based blues samba (with alto sax); a gentle gospel; a subtly swinging, pensive jazz waltz (with a lovely bass solo); and another subtle samba, with exquisite solos around. "D.N." is a brief, haunting bass solo performed on a six-string fretless bass. The album continues with a wistful ballad for flute and ensemble, with beautiful guitar and piano solos; the Latin-laced title tune, featuring elegant ensemble and bass and guitar improvisations; the gently up-beat "G.A."; and a gorgeous Bill Evans standard, to bring us home. Throughout, Alarie's touch is light, his tone full and ringing, his articulation clean and crisp, and his facility nonpareil.
There's not a whole lot of variation on this disc, but when it's late at night, who wants to have a perfect mood disturbed by a lot of notes for notes' sake? What there is here is more than an hour of scrumptious, gently swinging, 21st century, after-hours jazz by superb music makers from north of the border.
Track Listing: Brico*; I'm Old Fashioned; No String's Attached**; Water Is Wide; Ralph's Piano Waltz; Lisa; D.N.; Deux Eaux**; Tap Bass; G.A.; Time Remember (sic)