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When Pierre-Francois Blanchard (piano) and Rogier Schneemann (guitar) met at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague in 2006, they forged an immediate musical bond. Shortly thereafter they pulled in David Barker (drums) and Eric Heijnsdijk (bass) to form Azure. The band released their debut recording There Were Stars (Azuremusic) in 2007. On their second release, When She Smiles, the band enlists Antonio Pisano on drums.
Azure's music is informed by different strains. The music here, all of which was written by Blanchard and Schneemann, reflects a contemporary and comfortable setting. To make it more interesting they add Latin music, classical motifs, some funk and a touch of rock.
Both Blanchard and Schneemann are strong proponents of their instruments. They play with an active imagination opening several interesting doors. Blanchard is in his element on "A Mon Amour." The classical air is his forte as he nibbles at the notes, complementing them with compact chords. He lets the melody unravel gently and as the rest get into the vortex, the core becomes pliant, allowing Blanchard the scope for more adventure; packing in heated emphatic permutations as Schneemann adds gentility in a stream of sweet notes. The blend is juicy and delightful.
"Azur" goes upbeat on Schneemann's crunchy riffs before loping into a catchy refrain. The guitarist is sweet eloquence with a delicate air as he brings out the essence of the melody. Blanchard traipses on the piano in keeping with the mood but when Schneemann returns, he cuts into the metier with rock-edged runs. The shift gives credence to the band's ability to fuse forms seamlessly.
"RNP" also gets the shape moving from a light funk to smooth sailing with Blanchard at the helm. Not overly bland, the band adds texture and color, particularly through Pisano. But leave it to Schneemann, who turns the road into bop and gets his band mates to perk up.
Azure is primed for wider recognition with this sophomore effort.
Track Listing: When She Smiles; RNP; B-Y-You; By Heart; Inmost; Azur; Ballade Pour Une Paquerette; A Mon Amour; Berseuse Pour Maelise.
Personnel: Pierre-Francois Blanchard: piano; Rogier Schneemann: guitar; Eric Heijnsdijk: bass; Antonio Pisano: drums.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.