Veteran jazz man Yannick Rieu, based in Montreal, was tagged back in 1988 as one of the top saxophonists in the world, his name mentioned alongside Branford Marsalis, Joe Lovano and Courtney Pine. That set the bar high. A bit over thirty years have passed since he was presented with that high praise. Qui Qu'en Grogne, released in April, 2022, says that comparison was well deserved. Rieu has crafted an enriched and distinctive language all his own, presenting it with the help of his Generation Quartet. The language has deep roots in the tradition, and radiant blossoms in the right now.
Jazz artists work hard to create their own personal languages, a way of expression that translates thought, emotions and experiences into an appealing sound. Expressing oneself with the classic jazz quartet, piano, bass and drums rhythm section with a saxophone out frontor, modernly, the sax immersed in the stirrings, storm fronts and ruminations of the ensembleis a hard and competitive way to go. So many giants have come before: John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon. But Rieu and his group succeed, using simple melodies that they expand upon expansions that soar far beyond expectations.
The group dynamic is as good as it getsunusual in this time when most groups don't get the chance of six week residencies, playing together five or six nights a week. The most apt comparison here is Coltrane's early to mid-1960s Impulse Records quartet, with drummer Elvin Jones, bassist Jimmy Garrison and pianist McCoy Tyner, before that particular group flew off into free jazz territory. Not that Rieu's group sounds like the Coltrane crew. They instead sound as if they have achieved a similar cohesion and free-flowing chemistry, a musical melding of minds not often reached.
"Pharon" exudes a dense, lush beauty. It begins with near-silencea wash of cymbals, a delicately pensive piano. Then things evolve, with Rieu blowing a straightforward melody while pianist Gentiane Michaud-Gagnon explores the outer limits of gorgeous harmony, while bassist Louis-Vincent Hamel and drummer Guy Boisvert lay down a restrainedthen not so restrainedturbulence. The opener/title tune, "Qui Qu'en Grogne," bops along inside an insouciant groove, and "Time Is, Life Was," is a radiant ballad, laid down with a beautifully light touch all around.
A few spins of Qui Qu'en Grogne doesn't leave so much an impression of skillful solingthough there is a good deal of that going onbut rather the feeling of adept and fluid group interplay, and a collective immersion into the now that takes on an aspect of the spiritual. A top-notch classic jazz quartet album.
Qui Qu'en Grogne; Song Sisters; Riff Droite; Time Is, Life Was; Le Philosophe; Pretexte; Pharon;
Porta di Cinese.
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