La Bottine Souriante – Rock & Reel (EMI/Hemisphere) Manufactured by Capitol Records, Hollywood and Vine, Hollywood, CA  (51:18) Label this one in the Fringes of Jazz category. The universal language. When it comes from talented artists working with perfect execution, the music crosses boundaries and appeals to all. Especially when it melds traditional "French North American roots music" with contemporary jazz. All the essential elements are there: call & response vocals, foot stomping, gongs, chants, meters both regular and syncopated, and – of course – a fiddler. These are traditional elements tied to most forms of music around the world. Here, it comes in the form of Acadian-French folk songs that have ties across at least one ocean and a direct line to other parts of North America. La Bottine Souriante, a tight 9-piece ensemble, was formed in 1976; the four horns were added in 1990. Starting each song in a traditional manner, the band lets it evolve gradually into a contemporary jazz piece with horns wailing together. While this is ensemble work perfectly executed with consonance, rich octaves, and open harmony, it also swings with fire and intensity.
The most obvious jazz spot comes during "Yoyo-Verret," after a traditional start. From call & response singing, natural drum sounds, and clogging, the scene turns to an accordion lead, which acts as a bridge. On the other side of the bridge is a swinging Latin jazz adventure that culminates with André Verreault’s hot trombone solo. Similarly, "Un Air Si Doux" which begins as a call & response vocal featuring lead singer Yves Lambert, turns the corner and opens up into a slinking sidewalk jazz scene colored by double bass, guitar, horns, brushes swirling on a snare drum, and a soulful tenor saxophone solo (à la the Pink Panther) by Jean Fréchette. It’s great to see the universal language in action, crossing boundaries and still swinging.