Normand Guilbeault Ensemble


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If this album's any indication, Montreal must have a heckuva creative music scene. None of the players on this record are particularly famous, but the caliber of musicianship is world-class. Leader and bassist Guilbeault is a marvelous composer. His use of counterpoint is clever and refreshing, his melodies attractively convoluted and surprising. The contexts he provides for improvisation inspire some terrific moments. Drummer Paul Léger is an energetic and resourceful player; he's all over the place, sound-wise: dense, sparse, loud, soft, funky, swinging -- you get the idea. The soloists are mostly excellent, as well, even when Guilbeault gives them tricky changes to play over. Mathieu Bélanger's bass clarinet work is especially impressive -- sharp, aggressive, and melodically inventive (David Murray's influence seems clear). Trumpeter Ivanhoe Jolicoeur is a muscular, tonally expressive player; trombonist Michel Ouellet displays spontaneity and imagination. The leader is a fine bassist, possessed of a flexible, rubbery tone and supple technique. And although the band interprets a pair of tunes from the standard repertoire (including one by Charles Mingus, with whom Guilbeault has an obvious affinity), it's Guilbeault's originals that steal the show, reminding one just how important composition can be to small group improvisation. This is an excellent album, much better than most released by the major labels in the 1990s.

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