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Eric St-Laurent: Planet

Dan Bilawsky By

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Given the fact that guitarist Eric St-Laurent pulls from many different places and styles in his work, it's tempting to consider him a musical polyglot. The truth, however, is that he really only speaks a single language—his own, which just so happens to be influenced and informed by everything from Afro-Cuban grooves to bebop lines, classical music to rock, and pop to minimalism. All of that and more blends together and/or surfaces in organic form on the short and pleasing Planet.

There's an artful combination of rhythmic earthiness and pristine thought in the tracks that St-Laurent presents here. Michael DeQuevedo's hand drumming and percussion furrow the ground, Jordan O'Connor's bass acts as a go-between to bridge rhythm and melody, and St-Laurent weaves slanted lines—original, yet logical in nature—across the horizon and onto terra firma. Then there's the addition of Attila Fias' piano, an element that brings fresh color into the pictures that those longtime trio mates paint.

The album opens on "The Bass And The Mama," an uplifting original built with catchy riffs, zesty lines, and a rhythmic undertow that pulls the body into the sound. The pure energy found there gives way to a sense of wonder and awe on the title track, a piece which hypnotizes with arcing lines that bookend solos from St-Laurent and O'Connor. It's both cinematic and panoramic in scope. The first of three dissimilar covers follows, as DeQuevedo introduces a Latin-spiced take on Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee" that comes off like the peppy and catchy result of a fictitious collaboration between the song's composer, Arsenio Rodriguez, and Ary Barroso.

Those opening tracks speak briefly to the breadth of St-Laurent's influences, but there's far more to be found as the album swiftly moves on. The witty "What Would Steve Gadd Do?"—a light-voiced, African-influenced work that finds DeQuevedo alluding to the titular drummer's signature Mozambique—adds to the broad-minded picture being presented by St-Laurent. As that piece evolves, layers are added, removed, or tweaked, creating subtle shifts in the grooving framework without altering the primary sound and direction. If Gadd moved away from the trap drums and toward percussion, he might do exactly what DeQuevedo does.

From there it's off to a high-energy take on Carly Rae Jepson's "Call Me Maybe" (in seven), on to a sedate "Polarize" that's hardly polarizing, and over to a fun-filled "Spoon Benders" that gives both St-Laurent and Fias a chance to step out and shine. Then it all comes to an end with a trip through the theme from the second movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 8. It's a performance that contains a respectful trip through the familiar melody and solos from St-Laurent and O'Connor that perfectly reflect the mood. A superfluous track with music backing a recitation of the album's credits appears as the true finale, but the Beethoven cover is more of a fitting close to an album that successfully spans styles and worlds.

Track Listing: The Bass And The Mama; Planet; Donna Lee; What Would Steve Gadd Do?; Call Me Maybe; Polarize; Spoon Benders; Sonata NR 8, Theme From Second Movement; Credits.

Personnel: Eric St-Laurent: guitar; Jordan O'Connor: bass; Michael DeQuevedo: percussion; Atilla Fias: piano.

Title: Planet | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Self Produced

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