On New Leaves, their second recording together, longtime friends and sometime colleagues guitarist Dan Rose and pianist Claudine Francois focus their talents on making beautiful music together, a plan whose success is self-evident but whose single-mindedness could leave some listeners wishing for greater variety. That's not meant to berate, as beauty needs no defense, but simply to point out that the music bears an obvious semblance from track to track that even beauty can't fully redeem.
While there are some frisky moments, as on Thelonious Monk's "Monk's Dream" and Horace Silver's "Senor Blues," they are by and large overshadowed by the inclination to place moderation and beauty in the forefrontwhich in itself is no liability. Rose wrote "The New Leaf" and "Yes I Do," Francois "Le Desert" and "Mr. Slaint," the last dedicated to the late saxophonist Steve Lacy. Completing the program are Steve Swallow's "Ladies in Mercedes," Carla Bley's "Lawns" and Mal Waldron's "The Seagulls of Kristiansund."
After "The New Leaf" (whose melody calls to mind "Autumn Nocturne") opens the album on a calm yet tasteful note, Francois evokes the spirit of Monk with quirky block chords on "Monk's Dream" and lends firm support on "Ladies in Mercedes," as she does on every number. Her "Le Desert" is a delicate ballad, sullied ever so slightly by a barely audible tape hum that recurs from time to time throughout the session. The oft-performed "Senor Blues" is followed by a pair of assuasive ballads, "Lawns" and "Yes I Do," before the mood and tempo quicken slightly on "Mr. Slaint." The session closes with another meditative tone poem, "The Seagulls of Kristiansund."
As beauty and elegance were no doubt the goal, score one for Rose and Francois. New Leaves is awash in those admirable traits. If, however, you are among those listeners who prefer a dash or two of spice to enliven the menu, you'd be better served by looking elsewhere.
The New Leaf; Monk’s Dream; Ladies in Mercedes; Le Desert; Senor Blues; Lawns; Yes I Do;
Mr. Slaint; The Seagulls of Kristiansund.
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