Pianist Ludovic de Preissac's new record reminds me why I fell in love with jazz in the first place; in both a very general and specific sense.
Generally, in the sense that Retrouvailles
evinces, from beginning to end, that paradoxical mixture of solidarity in the pursuit of a collective goal, together with competitive individual excellence that makes jazz great. There is unstinting excellence and unflagging attention to detail; all the while knowing that no one is likely to get rich from this record, or this music, even though they really should.
Specifically, because like many listeners of my advanced age, I fell in love with the music via a sound similar to Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengersthose little big bands (or are they large small ensembles?) that mix genuine funk with elegant sophistication, delivered by exquisitely arranged multi-horn line-ups.
De Preissac clearly draws on this inspiration as well. The expertly navigated changes in meter and tempo are right out of the Wayne Shorter-era Jazz Messengers. The always subtly surprising tonal colors in de Preissac's arrangements recall the arranging work of his compatriot, flautist Christophe dal Sasso's Exploration
There are further parallels. Drummer Andréa Michelutti, like Blakey, favors the booming lower range of his kit. De Preissac, for his part, calls to mind some of the best qualities of the playing of various Jazz Messengers pianists (Horace Silver, Bobby Timmons, Cedar Walton, Mulgrew Miller): a round, gospel-tinged sound, a slight florid tendency to the baroque, all the better to be heard over and between the large-ish ensemble. In de Preissac's case, these characteristics are overlaid with classical elements as well (as on his solo on "Minor's Mood").
As a brief cross-section of the players' strengths, listen to the sequence of short solos on "Jungleblues," which sounds for all the world like a Jazz Messengers show closer. Tenor saxophonist Jean-Christophe Béney is firmly in the tradition (though elsewhere on the record he favors ever so slightly "out" sonorities) and equally in control. As does trumpeter and composer Fabien Mary, who insistently splits the beats of his solos.
For a bit of contrast, Michaël Chéret, on alto sax, heads for more angular territory, Eric Dolphy style, only to be followed by trombonist Mickaël Joussein's very cool sound on top of the rhythm. The leader takes a crystalline turn, followed by an arco episode from bassist Manuel Marchès and a brief trading of fours with drummer Michelutti. And that's not even the record's finest number.