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Every now and then I am reminded of just how vibrant and exciting the Jazz Guitar scene in Montreal, Quebec, Canada truly is. With greats like Greg Amirault, Greg Clayton, Mike Gauthier, Kenny Bibace, Sam Kirmayer, Carlos Jiménez, Mike Rud (I still consider him a Montrealer), Reno DeStefano and many more, there’s no lacking of wonderful straight-ahead players. Well now you can add another name to that ever growing list, that of Mathieu Soucy!
At only 27, Mathieu is a relatively young player on the scene today who has come out with a debut album that belies his youthful age as he straddles the lineage between both “old school” traditional players – think Jimmy Raney or Barry Harris – with more modern musical journeymen like Thelonius Monk, Mark Turner and Lennie Tristano.
Recollecting – the title of Soucy’s debut album – combines the above influences together in an appealing blend of melodic and harmonic distinctiveness that places him – in my opinion – in the same company as players like Sheryl Bailey, Mark Elf, Jesse Van Ruller, Lage Lund and others of that ilk. His compositional practices – which are featured on seven out of the nine tracks – also demonstrate a musical mindset that caters to his influences, both old and new.
Tunes like “Lennie’s Changes”, “Turner Days”, “Blues for Barry” and “Mike’s Mudra” all share a huge nod to their namesakes but without trying to mimic the unique voices of each artists paid tribute to. Rather, Soucy conveys their spirit of discovery and exploration as he and his band-mates pay homage as only they can, through great playing and individual interpretation via Mathieu’s charts, which are full of harmonic surprises and curious heads – check out the Coltrane-esque “Mike’s Mudra” below for an example!
It is clear that Soucy favors the angular nature of a Lennie Tristano or a Thelonious Monk as “Lennie’s Changes” and “5th Avenue” demonstrates his nod to both gentlemen melodically and harmonically. He even covers Monk’s “Reflections” in a beautiful solo guitar rendition that showcases Soucy’s nimble technique – both in his chordal playing and compelling lines – alongside a gorgeous tone that brings out all that the tune deserves. A great showcase piece indeed!
The remaining tunes are a little different in that they both introduce vocalist – and lyricist – Caity Gyorgy to the mix. Gyorgy’s voice is lively and vibrant as she brings an inimitable sparkle to the almost all instrumental session. She also gets to scat – nicely I might add – on the Rodgers and Hart penned “Where or When”, which made me think of vocalists Betty Carter and Nancy Wilson, while the Samba tinged “Thinker and a Fool” – a Soucy original with lyrics by Gyorgy – made me think that this tune could have easily been the opening theme from a 1950’s movie as it has that kind of quality and vibe.
Joining Soucy and Gyorgy in helping to create this vibe is a swinging group of players that make Montreal proud. Drummer Jacob Wutzke, Pianist Gentlane MG and Bassist Mike de Masi clearly know their way around their respective instruments and are quite gifted in their roles as both perceptive rhythm players and ardent soloists. “Turner Days” offers a great example of the group’s dynamic as each player – with the exception of Gyorgy – gets to shine brightly as they effortlessly take on Soucy’s chart with proficient skill, talent and enthusiasm, as they do on pretty much all of the tunes offered. Soucy did well in hiring these cats for the session as they complement his musical personality wonderfully, providing the right musical setting for Soucy’s warm yet snappy toned excursions. A great combination that deserves attentive listening and I look forward to the next album!
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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 🙂