Light as a Word is the debut full-length album from saxophonist and composer Remy Le Boeuf as a leader, and it moves fluidly in liminal spaces. Its format and its performersa sextet that includes piano, guitar, double bass, drums and tenor and alto saxare firmly in a jazz idiom. But the songs themselves are more through-composed than is typical for a group such as this, and Le Boeuf's approach as a bandleader seems to involve carefully creating space for each performer's respective improvisations to gently wash over gradually unfolding compositions. There are touches of classical music in the compositions and performances.
The prevailing mode is not exactly the orchestral jazz of Maria Schneider or Christine Jensen, for example, nor the adventurous swing of Charles Mingus, or some variety of loosely structured rock-influenced jazz music. It is something in between all of these tendencies. At times Light as a Word evokes the moody drama of the post-rock style where long songs ascend and shimmer at unhurried paces, punctuated by artful accents like tempo shifts and harmonic surprises at key points. Light as a Word is strongest in such moments, as its various tendencies come together most fluently and its emotional turns are most clearly articulated.
The aptly-titled "The Melancholy Architecture of Storms" exhibits the best of all the album's elements. The performances flow in and out of synchronicity, solos rise up and dissolve back into the song's collective momentum, gently and in waves. It evokes both post-rock like Explosions In the Sky or Early Day Miners as much as it does Mingus or Wayne Shorter. "Mirrors In Your Eyes" and "Qoo" (no context is given for this title but the word does mean "swan" in Farsi, an appropriate enough image) play out in a similar manner. These songs are in turns gentle and dramatic, lyrical, and emotionally stirring. The musicians produce moments of beauty.
Light as a Word burns brightly but intermittently. The record never feels uninspiredthe individual performers are too good, and Le Boeuf's apparent creative goal of digging out and experiencing emotional resonances with his audience is too compelling. The worst one is left with is the merely pleasant"Union," for example, written to mark his sister's wedding, or "Vista Hermosa," a tribute to Brian Blade and Jon Cowherd. As with with much of Light as a Word, these songs glow with lovely melodies and tasteful restraint, but they do not catch fire.
Bloom; Full Circle; The Melancholy Architecture of Storms; Imperfect Paradise; Union Intro; Union; Mirrors In Your Eyes; Vista Hermosa Intro; Vista Hermosa (For Jon and Brian); Qoo; Traptop; Light as Word
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