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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Francois Houle 5+1 - Genera (Songlines, 2012) ****½

I am in the midst of a two week vacation from work. I wanted to spend some quality Dad time with my 4 month old daughter and at the same time I thought (naively) that it would also be a perfect time to catch up on some reviews that have been sitting in queue on my mp3 player for the last couple of weeks.

The reality of my situation was quite different. It consists of most nights up at 2.30am tending to a little girl with a either a bad stomach, is hungry, or just looking for attention.

2:30 in the morning, I have found out, is the perfect time to have the Olympic TV coverage on mute in the background as we are both trying to catch a few winks of sleep.

Periodically, with one eye open, I would spot a Canadian athlete about to compete in a sport that many of us won't watch again until this time four years from now. Point being, I am always amazed when one of ours can compete on a world stage. This is also true when it comes to our music. I guess it is a part of our collective inferiority complex.

Luckily for me I still had Francois Houle 5+1's album Genera to listen to and it forced me to turn off the shot putt finals and get my brain to focus on something other than television.

'Essay #7' put the first big smile on my face. It starts right out of the gate with a great groove supplied but the near telepathic rhythm section of Harris Eisenstadt on drums and Michael Bates on bass. Benoit Delbecq, (piano and the +1 in the 5+1) masterfully plays over this groove until he gives way to a back and forth discussion between Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet and flugelhorn) and Samuel Blaser (trombone).

Clocking in at a little over 12 minutes, 'Guanara', the longest track on the album, demonstrates Francois Houle's (clarinet) ability to choose his musicians wisely. This is a great ensemble piece where everyone hits their mark every time. A slow burner where everyone gets equal time to contribute to the song's evolution, time well taken advantage of as none of it is wasted. This is a tempo where structure and free jazz meet and fall in love.  Houle also chooses his notes wisely as well. He plays without grabbing all the attention and that is a real strength. It forces the listener to go to him and not get hit in the face with a backhand of sound.

Delbecq gets to play around by himself at the top of 'Piano Loop (for BD)'. It is moments like these where he really gets to shine and can easily keep the pace once the rest of the band eases their way into the track. Solos mix with rhythmic elements and back out again in a tapestry of give and take. It ends with very deep rumblings from Blaser.

Now that my vacation and the Olympics are over, I can get back to listening to and writing about more great music like this.

Can be purchased from

© stef


Richard said...

This group played our jazz festival and covered this music. It was great, of course. To me the revelation was Samuel Blaser on trombone, and he's someone I need to track down more work from. The rest of the band was stellar, as expected.