Chantale Gagne: Wisdom of the Water (2011)
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Chantale Gagné has adopted what seems to be the perfect persona for her album, Wisdom of the Water. The young, Montreal-based pianist appears here as an almost childlike water sprite, a naiad, who sometimes mixes fun with erudition too. This is a perfect persona for the metaphor that is brought to fruition as it rushes and bubbles, but always flows onward to what becomes an exciting conclusion on songs throughout the entire album. With the graceful flow of ever changing harmonic ingenuity, she swishes and swims through the proverbial river of sound, never visiting the same place twice, much like the idiom of jazz itself. Throughout, Gagné is reverent and mindful of the maestros of her illustrious instrument, yet she is never overawed by the bevy of pianists from whom she draws inspiration as she sways as gently as the melodies she writes, moving in waves, amphibious and sensuous.
Gagné's writing is almost silken and as aqueous, as her ear is tuned to the ever changing nature of the water to which she apparently pays tribute. For instance, the title track is a masterful mirror of the enormity of the body of water. It is from here that Gagné skips out into the infinite unknown of musical melody. She falls interminably as any composer would, tumbling and catching ideas as she streaks past. She survives and flourishes with candor and wit. This is what makes her songs absolutely genuine in melodic as well as emotional forthrightness. As the album progresses, this aspect of her music stands out with the dusky glow of brilliance, especially on such tunes as "The Light We Need," "Waking Dreams" and "Lullaby for Winter." Her sense of play is also self-evident as she strides her way through "Roseline," making delightful reference to some of the solo moments audiences have shared with another pianist, the late, great Jaki Byard.
The ensemble that Gagné has assembled for this date is truly inspired. Bassist, Peter Washington holds the bottom of the music with melodic and rhythmic ingenuity. Drummer, Lewis Nash is as sensitive an accompanist that the pianist could ever wish for. Combining with Washington, the drummer makes for an incredibly spectacular rhythm section. On that traditional song of freedom, "I Shall not be Moved," a song that has moved poets and politicians alike, Nash shows great mastery as he works the rhythm with brazen brush strokes. That Gagné chose to play the song "straight" and not completely re-imagine it is interesting, to say the least. And, of course, vibraphonist, Joe Locke plays imaginatively throughout and deepens the imagery and power of the water metaphor.
This is a fine album and might be the best introduction to a bright young talent from Canada, Chantale Gagné, a pianist and composer to listen out for in the months and years to come.
Track Listing: Wisdom of the Water; Over the Bridge; My Wild Irish Rose; Squinky Pete; Roseline; The Light We Need; Waking Dreams; I Shall not be Moved; Lullaby for Winter.
Personnel: Chantale Gagné: piano; Joe Locke: vibraphone; Peter Washington: bass; Lewis Nash: drums.
Record Label: Self Produced