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A conversation among six people is not always an easy thing to pull off. There may be some who seek to overwhelm the others, and those all too content to be dominated. Too often the give and take may devolve into either discord or moody stasis. The wonder of the Jean Vanasse Sextet is that the group can create music so light, airy, and free of friction.
Amérikois finds the sextet further sweetening the confections of composer/arranger/leader Jean Vanasse. This mellow music is flavored by the delicacy of vibes and marimba set appealingly against the throaty purr of bass clarinet, as on "Brises Bises." The lyrical whimsy of Mathieu Bïlanger's solo flows naturally into the cascade of vibes. At the same time, Sylvain Provost's electric guitar proves a gently insistent place keeper.
Provost's tasteful runs on acoustic guitar grace the title track, darting around the vocals of Josï Acquelin. This reviewer's ignorance of any language besides English leaves me unable to report whether the lyrics convey previously unknown truths, but the addition of the human voice to the instrumental tapestry satisfyingly adds yet another texture.
Amérikois is an album of such subtle joys. The players do not beat the listener over the head with virtuoso fireworks, but instead perform with deep understanding of each other's motivations within the framework of Vanasse's compositions. This is patient music that will wait for the listener to approach it and appreciate its pleasures in time.
Track Listing: Petit Michel; Brises Bises; Amérikois; Lumieres; Zaz; Voyagel Aux Piles; Aiken Hill; Sur les pistes.
Personnel: Jean Vanesse-vibes, marimba; Mathieu B?langer-bass clarinet; Richard Savoie-tenor sax, soprano, flute; Normand Guilbeault-acoustic bass; Pierre Tanguay-drums; Jos? Acquelin-lyrics
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.