For every artist who's achieved popular acclaim there are ten more equally talented, but for whom greater recognition remains strangely elusive. Sylvain Luc's gradually growing discography demonstrates a guitarist with formidable technique and harmonic sophistication, and yet albums like Joko
(Dreyfus Jazz, 2007)a classic six-string workout if ever there was oneremain beneath the radar for many. Equally curious is the lack of visibility for his nearly decade-old Trio Sud. Many will look to Pat Metheny's undeniably excellent Day Trip
and Tokyo Day Trip
(Both Nonesuch, 2008) as pinnacles of guitar trio jazz in 2008, but Trio Sud's Young and Fine
deserves mention in the same breath.
A combination of original material by Luc, bassist Jean-Marc Jafet, and drummer André Ceccarelli, along with imaginative reworks of songs by Dizzy Gillespie, Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, and Stevie Wonder, Young and Fine
possesses the kind of chemistry that can only come from playing together on a regular basis. While Luc is the primary soloist here, Jafet and Ceccarelli are a simpatico rhythm teammore than a rhythm team, really, as they drive Luc every bit as much as he drives them. Together the trio teems with simmering energy on Jafet's opening "Song for My Twins," Ceccarelli moving from delicate cymbal work to more vivacious support as Luc layers electric and acoustic guitars, at times blending them so seamlessly as to sound like a single instrument. Two-handed tapping on the solo "Imperfect Tune," allows Luc to turn a single acoustic guitar into a mini-orchestra.
The trio never overstays its welcome, with most of Young and Fine
's 13 tracks clocking in at under five minutes. As inventive a guitarist as Luc iswhether he's creating self- accompaniment so rich it belies there often being only one guitar track or winding either vivid harmonies or serpentine lines, as he does on Jafet's appropriately titled "Sylvain Shadows"there's never the feeling of excess or overstatement. His choice of textures is also perfect, with his harp-like acoustic driving a spare take of Gillespie's "Con Alma," in contrast to the tart, Scofield-like intro to a Latin-esque reading of Wayne Shorter's "Infant Eyes," where Luc's tone turns warmer once the trio enters. He combines acoustic and overdriven electric tones for Ceccarelli's fusion-esque "Avenue des Diables Bleus," which moves from spacious to frenetic over the course of its brief four minutes.
Tackling a Weather Report song as a trio is an ambitious proposition, but Luc manages to distill the essence of Joe Zawinul's rich electronic orchestrations on "Young and Fine," using a variety of effects to broaden the soundscape. While Luc overdubs his guitar in various spots throughout the album, it's telling that here it's a single guitar, with Jafet's electric bass referencing but not emulating the late Jaco Pastorius, and Ceccarelli's approach fluid and swinging.
With Trio Sud's Young and Fine
coming a month after Philip Catherine's remarkable Guitars Two
, Dreyfus Jazz has released two the most engaging and impressive guitar sets of 2008.