René Lussier

Grand Vent

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Given four days of studio time and a superb group of musicians, René Lussier had very little choice but to come up with a superior CD with his Grand Vent project. This may be the most fully realized example of this artist's vast and peculiar aesthetic personality in his discography. He comes armed in a manner that can be compared to James Bond once he has that all-important meeting with the new weapons inventor. It all may be too much for some listeners, however, the smell of burning flesh lingering in the air the way it often does when musicians have been rehearsing too much. Lussier makes use of most of the instrumental families in his midsize combo -- reeds, brass, strings, as well as a rhythm section sound fat enough for his guitar ravings. Not that the ambitious music is all avant-garde by any means: an arrangement of the early-'30s "Hula Blues" is a good point-of-purchase piece; only the truly guilt-ridden can worry about purchasers freaking out later when confronted with the weird parts. Through all of this Lussier seems to have rummaged through his back catalog of compositions and arrangements to find material that will challenge the ensemble members or simply fit them comfortably -- for example providing trombonist Tom Walsh with a nice chance to swing in the context of a music that is not particularly jazzy. Lussier continues his superb collaboration with clarinetist Lori Freedman and above all shows a flair for integrating composed and improvised ensemble sections, sometimes coming up with a stiff moment but just as often creating music of rare beauty and precision.

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