Vibraphonist Roger Beaujolais' name may not be familiar to listeners on the American side of the pond, but he's been a pretty steady presence on the British scene for decades, making a splash with The Chevalier Brothers, hitting the studios with artists as far apart as rocker-turned-folkie Robert Plant and Cuban icon Omara Portuondo, and leading his own sessions of various sizes under different guises. For this, his nineteenth album to date, he fronts a quartet that's content to soak up beauty and send it back out on its way.
Sunset is free of gimmicks, never trying to push boundaries or stake claim to any concept. But boring it's not. Beaujolais and companypianist Robin Aspland, bassist Simon Thorpe, and drummer Winston Cliffordexplore eventide without falling into slumber. This band harnesses the radiant light that ushers in the dark, bringing positive energy to the fore on nearly every song. From Thorpe's stout-voiced introductory lines all the way through to the end, these four shine bright.
The joyous "Unlucky For Some" opens the album and exists as something of a misnomer, presenting itself with with an uplifting, Benny Golson-esque tunefulness while offering a glimpse of this group's collective chemistry. "Benign Tonight" follows, giving Beaujolais a chance to ride high over Clifford's percussive prodding; "And When You Smile" dials down the temperature into a more comfortable place; and Cole Porter's "I Love You" swings with melodic grace and charm. Then the centerpiece"In The Meantime," a ballad filled with yearning and painted with pastel colorsoffers time for deep reflection before Beaujolais starts to move toward album's end.
The second act of Sunset opens on a gently waltzing "Little B's Poem," giving Beaujolais a chance to nod toward the great Bobby Hutcherson before reinvesting himself in his own work. Then the final pair of originalsa slinking "Round The Houses" bookended by a devious unison lead and the breezy, Brazilian-coated title trackcarry this date toward its conclusion, a place where an excitable "Yesterdays" serves as Beaujolais' right and true parting statement. There's nothing fancy or forward-thinking to see here, just beautiful music performed by a solid quartet. Sometimes that's all you need.
Unlucky For Some; Benign Tonight; And When You Smile; I Love You; In The Meantime; Little B's Poem; Round The Houses; Sunset; Yesterdays.
Roger Beaujolais: vibraphone; Robin Aspland: piano; Simon Thorpe: double bass; Winston Clifford: drums.
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