Montreal, famous for its International Jazz Festival, Montreal style bagels and Schwartz’ Smoked Meat, also lays claim to a relatively small but vibrant Jazz scene featuring – among the city’s top-shelf players – brothers Greg and Steve Amirault, Guitar and Piano respectively. Originally hailing from Nova Scotia, Greg and Steve – for the most part – have made Montreal their home for many years now and it is with an immense benefit to the Jazz Community that they have done so.
News Blues, the latest CD from Greg Amirault, features the crème de la crème of the Montreal scene as pianist Steve Amirault, bassist Adrian Vedady and drummer Jim Doxas – better known as The Montreal Jazz Trio – tackle Greg’s compositions with a focused precision that demonstrates their individual skill-sets more than admirably throughout this recording. This is a group that has played together with each other for many years in a variety of situations and formats, allowing for an almost telekinetic communication between one another as they open up, dissect and explore the minutia found within Greg’s writing. Don’t just take my word for it though. One listen to Greg’s “Sweet Way” or “Uninvited” should substantiate my opinion nicely! But of course, listen to the full album for the complete picture.
Stylistically News Blues fuses bop, post-bop and swing with an almost ECM like quality reminding me at times of John Abercrombie and/or the 70’s Pat Metheny Group. “Tribute Tune” and “Reissued” are great examples of this as Greg’s guitar sports a subtle delay and clear tone that invokes a moody reminiscence of the aforementioned groups. His attention to melodic exchanges rather than ostentatious prattle is a testament to his affection for the uncluttered line. Regardless of tempo, each note seems to be exactly where it is needed without superfluous motion, bringing to mind cats like Jim Hall and Peter Bernstein! A most desired musical characteristic and greatly appreciated by this listener.
Greg also has a knack for the contrafact and brings new life to old chestnuts like “Stella” (Uninvited), “In Your Own Sweet Way” (Sweet Way) and the title track’s use of a standard Minor Blues to name just a few. The transformation of these tunes via hip arrangements and intricate melodies preserves the familiar while adding a fresh uniqueness to a previously established set of tried and true changes. Definitely the best of both worlds in my humble opinion.
Of the nine tunes that are on this CD, seven of them are Greg’s and the remaining two are standards – “If You Could See Me Now” and “Embraceable You” – which Greg performs in a chord-melody style that showcases his deft ability to play solo guitar pieces on par with the likes of Mimi Fox, Andy Brown, Chris Whiteman and Jon Herington amongst others of their ilk. And while Greg spruces up the harmonic content a little in each tune, he pays homage to the original composers by doing so delicately to not mar the beauty inherent in each.
And speaking of beauty, “Meeting The Master” and “Song For Nova Scotia” definitely fall within that descriptive word as discerning and emotive melodies abound. “Song For Nova Scotia” especially comes to mind as Greg digs deep into his folk/country bag to compose a tune that captures the spirit of their home-land. Greg’s clean – almost twangy – guitar tone and relatively simple changes reminds me of Bill Frisell and possibly something that would come out of a Charlie Haden/Pat Metheny collaboration. Brother Steve aptly lends a “sleepy” western movie quality to the song by effectively employing the use of a Melodica. This instrument provides a breathy harmonica like tone that works nicely as a contrasting voice to the clean simplicity of Greg’s guitar. Vedady and Doxas also provide the requisite restraint needed to keep the tune fully in pocket. The good people of Nova Scotia should be proud!
Now, even though this is definitely Greg’s CD, I would be negligent if I didn’t mention the powerhouse rhythm section of the Montreal Jazz Trio. Steve, Vedady and Doxas bring to the studio decades of experience and familiarity that result in a deep awareness of what is needed to bring Greg’s tunes to life. Not only are they accomplished leaders in their own right, they also fit nicely as team players providing unfaltering support that enables each of them to give 110%. In a word, these guys can PLAY and play they do! Whether holding down the fort rhythmically or effortlessly blowing through the changes, each supporting member does so fiercely and in deference to the song. It’s no wonder that they receive such high praise from their fans and peers alike. Well done boys…well done 🙂
So if you’re looking to check out a talent deserving wider recognition or you just wanna hear someone who is not one of “the same old, same old” clan of guitar players, check out Greg Amirualt’s News Blues for an exciting introduction to the Montreal and Canadian Jazz Scene! I think you’ll be glad you did.
Please consider spreading the word about Greg’s latest CD and Jazz Guitar Life by sharing this review amongst your social media pals and please feel free to leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you 🙂
If you would like to support all the work I do on Jazz Guitar Life, please consider buying me a coffee or visiting the Jazz Guitar Life sponsors. Thank you and your patronage is greatly appreciated regardless if you buy me a coffee or not 🙂