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(40:40, Musea/Great Winds Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Par la Cote 6:07 2. Acteur Fetiche 8:21 3. Mario 5:58 4. En Campagne 3:45 5. Un Hymne 6:20 6. Anna Karenine 4:49 7. Cloches 5:20 LINEUP: Jean Lapouge – electric guitars Gregoire Catelin – violoncello David Muris – drums
Prolusion. French composer and guitarist Jean LAPOUGE has a career in music, stretching back a few decades, initially making a name for himself with the French band Noetra back in the day. Since that band disbanded in 1985 he has continued releasing music either in collaborative projects or as a solo artist, with five studio albums to his name since then. "Plein Air" is, to my knowledge, the first production ascribed to Jean Lapouge Trio. It was released through the French label Musea Records’ imprint Great Winds in 2014.
Analysis. While Lapouge first became known with a band many have chosen to place inside the progressive rock universe, his solo albums have all, at least to my knowledge, been firmly placed within the jazz universe. Those familiar with Noetra's material will obviously find similarities in the scope and style of Lapouge as a solo artist as well, but in terms of specific style explored, "Plein Air" is a jazz production through and through. Lapouge's specialty is to explore finer details and nuances, and this CD documents that approach and ability very well indeed. The instrumental compositions are all of a careful, delicate nature, of the kind one might describe them as introspective, and most certainly music that demands intense and careful listening. Headphone music is an expression that pops up now and then, and this is a perfect album to be placed in that category: An album best enjoyed in a silent room with your headphones on. Lapouge's guitar is, naturally enough, the key element throughout. Not always the dominant one, mind you, as the man doesn't shy away from having a more supplemental function when needed, but whether the guitar is the lead instrument or the provider of gentle details, his plucked, resonating and fragile guitar is the key identity mark throughout. On select occasions he'll opt for a subtly more intense delivery, on rare occasions he'll also add some rougher, distorted effects to the guitar tone, but first and foremost gentle, plucked light-toned guitar motifs are the order of the day. On a few occasions with what sounds like a slight nod in the direction of Django Reinhardt. Drummer Muris does an excellent job in supporting the proceedings with gentle rhythm and percussion details, while Catelin's role is rather more striking, as he uses the violincello to provide both the mournful timbre of the cello and the more melancholic vibes of the violin to supplement the gentle guitar motifs, and he also doubles up by providing bass lines by way of plucked strings, which does give many of these compositions a nice and at times surprising dynamic. There are a few occasions where we're treated to bass solo runs by way of plucked strings, for instance, which is rather more tasteful and effective than what the description might indicate.
Conclusion. "Plein Air" is an album that should be sought out by those who prefer their jazz-fusion to be delicate, that takes pleasure in subtle details, music where the individual tone is given lots of room and that focus on the finer nuances of music. An affection for careful, plucked guitar details are most likely needed, as well as a taste for music that demands a great deal of attention for its qualities to be revealed.
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