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James Beaudreau's 2006 Java St. Bagatelles (Workbench) made a nice splash in the music press, with glowing reviews in The Wire, All Music Guide, and Tokafi.com. Fresh Twigs is an equally compelling follow-up, featuring the delicious picking and melodic strengths of Java St. combined with mixing room agility and intriguing compositional elements. Inspired by pioneering producers Holger Czukay and Teo Macero, Beaudreau has created a CD of rewarding music that only strengthens upon repeated listening.
One of the most compelling pieces is "Montmarte," a six-part suite that creates a captivating musical galaxy in five-and-a-half minutes. The different parts feature unabashedly beautiful melodies that gradually get more dissonant and spacious. Eventually they become downright deconstructive, with the final part a medley of twanging guitar, spacious percussion, and strange pieces of sound. "Montmarte" is reminiscent of the different patterns of brocade in a Tibetan Buddhist thangka: although each part is complete in itself, the combination of patterns play off one another and makes an altogether rich impression.
There's much to be praised in the other songs as well. "Opening Bell" explores the power of dynamics, combining a haunting melody with bursts of wild guitar twanging. "Strayhorn" features Beaudreau's delightfully spare picking, with each beautifully shaped note a small world in itself. "Parlor City" is a pretty song, lovely and lyrical with a delicate chiming quality, slowly escalating dynamics, and unexpected dips into dissonance. On "Fresh Twigs" Beaudreau cuts loose and reveals more of his range, including long rock 'n' roll guitar lines and a joyfully funky groove.
Fresh Twigs finds Beaudreau fulfilling the promise of Java St. Bagatelles and then some. Beaudreau is a musician of vast talent, with a wealth of ideas and exquisitely sensitive ears. It'll be interesting to hear what he does next.