Since its arrival on the scene, Montreal’s Effendi Records has championed the cause of contemporary mainstream jazz. It has done so by issuing a steady stream of new releases on a yearly basis. Both MOR jazz fans and those searching for new musical experiences will surely be enticed by their latest offerings. Here are three good picks from the pack.
In the year of their 2015 Effendi debut Quantum, pianist Emie R. Roussel and her mates embarked on a junket of concerts worldwide. Drawing on a wealth of shared experiences, the trio returns brimming with new ideas in this newest side issued last September. This time they are joined by singer Malika Tirlolien, electric bassist Norman Lachapelle and trumpeter Lex French, each guesting on a single track specially written for them. The results are most enjoyable thanks to the pianist’s lithe touch and the effective support of partners who can be just as groovy as lyrical. Tinges of soul, pop and classical colour the proceedings throughout, always to good effect.
This recording stems from a close collaboration between alto saxophonist Tevet Sela (an expat from Israel) and pianist John Roney. Doing away with the usual constraints found in jazz groups, they are free to roam at will. The absence of a rhythm section allows them not only more latitude in their interactions but also to create a more fluid sense of time and some wonderfully melodic and moving turns of phrase. Essential to the success of this outing are the disparate mix of influences heard throughout the 10 tracks, Sela’s Middle Easternisms underscored by Roney’s classical touches. While the latter is generally very adroit in laying down all of the needed harmonic and rhythmic underpinnings, some pieces (e.g. “Waterfall”) would have fared better with added backing.
In Ajivtal, veteran saxman Janis Steprans delivers a musical offering at once introspective and buoyant. Taking his cues from the Jewish and Russian folk melodies which are part of his Lithuanian background, this reedist has put together a package of nine pieces that embrace all those influences. Throughout the program, he shows much aplomb on his three saxes (tenor, alto, soprano) and pulls out a clarinet for a warm-hearted interpretation of “That Old Devil Called Love,” the album’s lone standard. A fine cast of local stalwarts rounds off this side: pianist Geoff Lapp, bassist Adrian Vedady, trapman André White and Kenton Mail playing some drums and a shaker on one cut. All told, the music here is a refined mix of folk influences strewn with strong jazz overtones, mostly those of Parker and Coltrane, Steprans’s obvious role models.
Translated by Marc Chénard