Jean-Michel Reisser, in his thoughtful liner notes to bassist Cédric Caillaud's trio début, argues that French jazz has excelled in producing top-flight bassists. The late Pierre Michelot
, a veteran of Miles Davis's L'ascenseur pour l'échafaud
(Fontana, 1957), would be the granddaddy of that confrérie. Reisser reminds us of others: Patrice Caratini, Henri Texier
, and Pierre Boussaguet, who was the young Caillaud's mentor.
Another bassist is mentioned a couple of times by Caillaud in his remarks in the liner notes, and evoked with even greater frequency in the music on this record: Ray Brown
. Claiming to detect Ray Brown's influence in a young bassist's performance is only slightly less banal than perceiving Sonny Rollins in a saxophonist's playing, but Brown's presence is slightly closer to the surface in Caillaud's case.
First, Caillaud, like Brown, swings readily and hard, and he sits squarely and magnanimously on the center of each beat. Moreover, the trio inhabits Brown's musical universe, a rollicking swing-plus-hard bop world whose fundamental reference points are frozen in the mid to late 1950s. "Ice Cream Blues, guest bassist Boussaguet's duet with his acolyte, rocks gently, but these guys can also rock hard, as when Caillaud and pianist Patrick Cabon trade fours with drummer Philippe Soirat near the end of the title track.
Cabon dedicates his composition "Greenisms to Benny Green, whose bluesy musicality infuses his playing. On "Deep As It Can Be, listen to the way the pianist hits his notes just microseconds after Caillaud, with a sureness of touch and a funky mastery that will have you shaking your head in wonder. Another highlight: baritone saxophonist Xavier Richardeau lends his oboe-ish tone to a guest spot on a ripe "Grandfather's Waltz.
After recording the first nine numbers, producer Jean-Jacques Grabowski told the players they had time for another track; Caillaud and Cabon complied with a single-take duet on "I've Never Been in Love Before, which is remarkable for its easygoing camaraderie and serves as a fitting coda for the record.
The stylistic conservatism in evidence here is not a bad thing in principle. For a lot of the younger American players, in contrast, stylistic conservatism has quickly become political conservatism. By rejecting the putative musical excesses of the 1960s, these musicians (or more frequently, their champions in print) have rejected what they perceive as the political excesses associated with that decade.
Caillaud has no such political chip on his shoulder. Nevertheless, it would be a pity for a young player, especially one so gifted, to restrict himself to a somewhat narrow musical range. Caillaud need look no further than his immediate musical circlethe musicians for which the trio members have served as sidemen is a long, illustrious, and above all, diverse listfor opportunities to stretch his capacities. I'll look forward to those developments. In the meantime, I can while away the time marvelling at the impossibly deep groove on Caillaud's "Basically Blues.