They spoke about it
Nothing like the first time? Don’t be so sure…
“Twice is a habit,” stated the protagonist of Albert Camus’ play Cross Purpose. And while the woman was referring to the murders she routinely committed with the complicity of her daughter, there is assuredly nothing routine or criminal about this second disc in the Montréal Jazz Club series. On the contrary, malcontents would do better to forget the old adage that says there’s nothing like the first time and instead, lend an attentive ear.
Spurred on by the success of the first disc, which appeared in the fall of 2004, producer Philippe Dunnigan took the same rhythm section (drummer Camil Bélisle; bassist Pierre Pépin; and pianist, trombonist and arranger—and my fellow Université de Montréal alumnus—Anthony Rozankovic) and surrounded them with a handful of musicians, including three of Montréal’s most talented singers. The group was given the mission of producing cool, classy jazz—inspired but never frenetic, laid-back but never dull.
The disc thus contains mostly ballads. Other than a few songs borrowed from Leonard Cohen (“Hallelujah”), Joni Mitchell (“Both Sides Now”), and Michel Legrand (“Windmills of your mind”), the recording draws most heavily upon the songbook of Quebec classics and popular tunes (“Quand les hommes vivront d’amour,” “Un peu plus loin,” “Je voudrais voir la mer,” “Le rendez-vous,” “Lucky Lucky”). However, we mustn’t forget the unforgettable jazz standard “My Funny Valentine,” in which singer Freddie James shows us why he’s known for having one of the best “soul” voices in town. And please indulge me if I also vaunt his poignant interpretation of “The True Colors of My Father’s Eyes,” with lyrics written by novelist David Homel and myself to music by Rozankovic.
With the same brio as Freddy, Martine Mai rises to the challenges of Rozankovic’s elegant arrangements with her crystal clear voice, while Rozankovic cedes his position as pianist and arranger to colleague Marianne Trudel on “L’indifférence.” Freddie and Martine join forces on two pieces (“Windmills of your mind,” and “Un peu plus loin”), illustrating just how beautifully their voices complement each other and blend with the dark, expressive sound of the Menasen String Quartet. In passing, there’s something very moving—something that embodies the cosmopolitan reality of Montréal—in the way Freddie James sings the Jean-Pierre Ferland lyrics with his English accent a la Nina Simone. And Betty Bonifassi, solidly accompanied by Jean-Marie Benoit on guitar, gives forth a “Lucky Lucky” that will certainly warm singer-songwriter Richard Desjardin’s heart.
Finally, I would be amiss if I did not underscore the excellent work of the other guests on this disc: Michel Dubeau on soprano and tenor sax, Frédéric Darveau on bass, Pierre Parent on harmonica, and Philippe Dunnigan himself on violin, who gives us several memorable passages. As for trumpet player David Mossing, whose beautiful playing we hear on the intriguing instrumental arrangement of “Je voudrais voir la mer,” he is for me both a discovery and a name to remember.
In my notes to the first Montréal Jazz Club disc, I said that while some may see the series as a fling, it looked to be a long-term fling. With this second disc refuting the idea that there’s nothing like the first time, we can now sit back and reflect on the prospect of a beautiful and lasting relationship.
Writer and jazz lover
Translation: Peter Christensen
Vocal: Martine Mai, Freddie James, Betty Bonifassi
Piano, Trombone: Anthony Rozankovic
Bass: Pierre Pépin, Frédéric Darveau
Drum: Camil Belisle
Trumpet: Dave Mossing
Guitar: Jean-Marie Benoit
Harmonica: Pierre Parent
Saxophones : Michel Dubeau
Philippe Dunnigan, Violin
Mélanie Bélair, Violin
Ligia Paquin, Viola
Sheila Hannigan, Cello