Tunisia-born French singer
They spoke about it
No sense of adventure? Get real!
How could one not interpret as a self-deprecatory wink the decision to include a cover of Claude Dubois’s superb song “Pas question d’aventure” on the first CD of the Montréal Jazz Club series. When a classical recording label whose trademark is as firmly anchored in the public imagination as Analekta’s decides to move into jazz, some will undoubtedly say it’s a fling. But make no mistake: this is decidedly not a one-night stand!
For recording producer Philippe Dunnigan, there is no contradiction between Analekta’s initial calling and this new direction. “For us, Montréal Jazz Club is a project stamped with a seal of the utmost rigor.” And it is clear that the producers have not cut any corners, as indicated by the presence of such talented and well-known musicians as guitarist Benoît Charest, accordionist Francis Covan, the Menasen string quartet, trumpetist Jean-Luc Thibeault, pianist Marianne Trudel, saxophonist Patrick Vetter, and on violin, Philippe Dunnigan himself! Of course we cannot forget singer Chantale Thibeault and the rhythm section made up of pianist (and occasional trombonist) Anthony Rozankovic, contrabassist Pierre Pépin, and drummer Camil Bélisle, whose refinement comes through on several instrumental tracks.
One sweltering mid-July afternoon in Greenfield Park, Dunnigan and I are chatting in the thankfully air-conditioned control room of drummer Camil Bélisle’s studio. On the other side of the wide window, Chantale Thibeault sings a smoky passage of a new take of “Everything Must Change.” The bassist and drummer are honing their dialogue in the interlude when Dunnigan interrupts the recording to suggest to Rozankovic—who created most of the sumptuous arrangements for the disc—that a touch of gospel might benefit this Bernard Ighner classic, made popular by George Benson, Nina Simone, and Oleta Adams, among others. There’s a wonderful paradox here: the session lasts as many takes as necessary, with nothing left to chance, and yet throughout, everyone remains open to the magic of the moment, the very foundation of true jazz.
Though this is one of her first recordings, Thibeault has worked alongside enough experienced jazz musicians in Montréal clubs to have learned this golden rule. When she gives us “Alys en cinémascope”—in an arrangement by Benoît Groulx (the other arranger on this disc) that owes little to the original by Diane Dufresne—we hear both that nightlife experience and a desire to not be blinded by the limelight on the way to the top. With “Reste avec moi” or “Gilberto,” two songs borrowed from the repertoire of the underrated Diane Tell, we also hear the control, contained sensuality and restraint of a singer who has obviously learned much from listening to Shirley Horn, that master of back phrasing, but who avoids the pitfall of servile imitation. So Thibeault is eminently convincing when she picks up from Horn the eloquent refrain: “that’s how it goes / you live and you learn / the rules of the road.”
No sense of adventure? Really? And yet this disc has adventure written all over it. A fling? Maybe, but a long-term fling—which is all the better for music lovers, and which bodes well for the discs to come the Montréal Jazz Club series.
© Stanley Péan
Writer and jazz lover
Translation: Peter Christensen