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Christian Bon/Francois Mechali/Youval Micenmacher: La Ballade du Serran Ecriture

Todd S. Jenkins By

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An unusual, captivating acoustic performance by a simmering French trio. Guitarist Christian Bon, bassist Francois Mechali, and percussionist Youval Micenmacher combine the essence of Django Reinhardt’s gypsy-jazz with world-music flavorings and occasional dashes of bop to produce a comforting, consistently stimulating program.

Bon’s guitar style blends elements of Django, Wes Montgomery, Charlie Byrd and a number of other influences into a coherent, uplifting flow of pure sound. Mechali, who could have been a bit better-miked on a few tracks, is vibrant and occasionally percussive in his approach. He knows how to stay well out of Messr. Bon’s way while carving out his own melodically challenging lines. Micenmacher is a nice surprise, as he usually manages to keep the pace booting along with just a relatively small array of hand percussion. This proves most enriching to the trio, as the trap set would only overshadow the string players’ warm subtleties on the quieter tracks. The group’s performances are marked by high-echelon musicianship, attentive interaction and judicious use of dynamics.

“Tordu” (“twisted”), the opening track, opens with the chug of one drum with the guitar and bass soon strutting in to trade bars. After a few moments the melody line emerges, a sort of Bela Fleck -Thelonious Monk hybrid. The guitar and bass provide rhythmic support along with their usual functions, as Micenmacher occasionally holds himself to a firm 2-and-4 thud to let the other men stretch out. This prudent balance sets the pattern for the entire set. Ballads, laments, splashes of the avant-garde, barely restrained mania, Brazilian and Eastern European echoes all work their way into this marvelous disc. A deep blue undercurrent flows through all, befitting the album’s subtitle, “le temps de voir blue” (“time to see blue”).

Given the current revival of old-timey Djangoesque acoustic jazz, this trio may easily find an open audience to whom they will prove cathartically invigorating. This recording might be difficult to find outside of Europe, but it’s worth hunting down for a refreshing change of pace.

(Charlotte Productions, 31 rue de l’arrivee, 95880 Enghien les Bains, France)


Track Listing: Tordu; Serenite; Face de mime; La vitesse; Mac Do; Trio No. 1 pour cordes et peaux; La ballade du serran ecriture; La terre; Gris de bleu; La rage; Photo reporter; Le desert; Trio No. 2 pour cordes et peaux; Harmoniques; Le train; Rappel.

Personnel: Bon, acoustic guitar; Mechali, acoustic bass; Micenmacher, percussion.

Title: La Ballade du Serran Ecriture | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Charlotte Productions


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