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Jaclyn Guillou: Winter For Beginners

Dan Bilawsky By

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If ever there was a voice that could balance an icy chill with fireplace comfort and warmth, it's this one. On Winter For Beginners, Jaclyn Guillou's intoxicating voice takes the ear through an odyssey of the seasons, communing with nature in all of its beauty, be it rich or stark.

Guillou's originals are built in a contemporary and exploratory vein, eschewing form(al) simplicities for something more complex and meaningful, yet everything is easy and natural to grasp; she bridges modernity with accessibility in seamless fashion. At times, it's her way with words that catches attention and draws in the ear ("In A Wooden House" and "Castle Garden"), but she's just as likely to charm with the tonal purity of her wordless lines. Those heavenly sounds, which alternately move in step-wise fashion, create angular beauty, walk in tandem with guest cellist Peggy Lee, or simply take in the surroundings, aren't a key ingredient here; they're the key ingredient.

Seven of the nine tracks featured herein come from Guillou's fertile mind, but she bookends the album with two vastly different covers that speak to her diversified musical portfolio—a beautiful recasting of a traditional number called "Land Of The Silver Birch" and a modern jazz-folk-soul inflected take on Phoebe Snow's "Poetry Man." Both numbers fit in perfectly with her original material, both in sound and spirit. All nine songs truly come together to form a travelogue of sorts.

Guillou's companions on this journey do a splendid job bringing her thoughts to musical life. Pianist Bruno Hubert provides directional guidance and serves as a source of support; guitarist David Blake's lines refract and glow in the sonic atmosphere; special guests—tabla player Neelamjit Dhillon, producer/trumpeter Brad Turner, and Lee—add new layers of depth to the work; and the bass-drum team of James Meger and Andrew Millar add subtle touches and provide momentum and power when needed. It's a team effort, but it's also Guillou's show. And with a voice like that, it shouldn't be any other way.

Track Listing: Land Of The Silver Birch; In A Wooden House; When The Leaves Fall; Winter For Beginners; Spring (Is Like A Promise For Beauty); Summer Where? (Mr Sun); Clouds; Castle Garden; Poetry Man.

Personnel: Jaclyn Guillou: vocals; Bruno Hubert: piano; David Blake: guitar; James Meger: bass; Amdrew Millar: drums; Brad Turner: flugelhorn (5), trumpet, triangle (6); Peggy Lee: cello (1, 3, 8); Neelamjit Dhillon: table (6).

Title: Winter For Beginners | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Cellar Live

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