What’s on your mind when someone talking to you about French jazz music? Instantly you might feel the air, the bustling downtowns, the people, all fused into a single unbroken string. It’s an irresistible fact that jazz is always an appropriate element to be mixed up with traditional music creating some unusual and explorative tunes. Suddenly your wild delusion will be drifted away to a typical, familiar French atmosphere while sitting in a small cafe, looking out through the window alone, and savoring a piece of Chausson aux pommes and a cup of tea. Probably you’ll visualize crossing Millau Viaduct in southern France with clouds around you, or you’re just walking in large vineyards in Burgundy. That’s how wondrous the music can be, being able to be a potent sorcery for our minds. Moving our moods from sorrowful into happiness will take us back to some memorable occurrences, and magically it can fly us to places that we’ve never even been there before. And France seems right in the eyes when listening to “Sup Dude” album by Jacques Pellarin Quartet. Here it is; a brilliant package of affluent colors. We’ll find Latin sounds of samba, tango, the beauty of smooth jazz, reggae, energetic funk and Celtic rock, but brightly it still has a deep scent of France.
Let’s get back few years ago. the virtuoso accordionist and superb composer Jacques Pellarin formed an acoustic trio in 2008 with Diego Fano on saxophone and Yann Pajean on Percussions. A year later in 2009, they spawned an album entitled “Sound of Philadelphia” which sent American Philly soul into romantic side of Paris. Then In 2010 “Karenita” was born. It’s like a “sailboat” album, mainly speaks about the South Seas, describing their adventurous journey to Latin music and French cinema in a complete artistic composition. Jacques Pellarin continued his musical trip in 2011. He made a significant diversity by bringing an electric bass player, Renaud Bourquard into the group to raise more modern ornaments and extend the trio into Jacques Pellarin Quartet. (For live concert Franck Detraz is taking over Renaud’s position as the bassist). Pellarin said, “In Sup Dude, the twist was to hire a studio bassist, trained electro-pop, who likes to use the effects without necessarily abusing it.” Yes, Renaud Bourquard really filled a steady pulse and harmony, affiliated with the three other messieurs. A piece of Renaud’s work with Jacques and his trio can be found in the previous album Karenita, when he joined the trio for the last song titled “Latin Blues”. Now he officially became the member and turned the group into Quartet. Together they walked up the musical stairs and attained a jazztronica style as their salient point.
The expression “Sup Dude” certainly arouses our curiosity. Pellarin recalled that there was an unforgettable moment when their acoustic trio had a meeting at a studio in New Jersey during the recording for “Sound of Philadelphia” in 2008 with the producer/composer Chris Orazi. He taught Pellarin about an American term to greet someone new, and that was “What’s up dude”. And it became “Sup Dude” for Pellarin’s accent. That’s what they took as the title for this album, something feels funny yet unique. That memory was poured into a glass of melodies, served chilled to all music lovers over the world, notably for anyone who is searching for the preponderance of melodic themes without ignoring the free improvisations.
As a musician who grew up through learning classical and traditional music, Pellarin just constructed an experimental building of electronica framework. He expanded a multitude of sound effects and finally strengthens the whole structure. He said, “It’s far from over. I began a new era with this quartet!” It tastes like Raclette, a special melted cheese with some boiled Bintje or Charlotte potatoes, almost similar with cheese fondue in the winter. Raclette has traditional ingredients but really palatable with various additives. You can add any vegetable, herbs de provence, apple, bacon, or eat just like that. So does Pellarin’s music. Those modern contents will enrich the flavor without relieving the basic pattern. It’s a right dish for your appetite!
Let’s dig the album. The quartet says hello with “Sup Dude”, the title track of the album. Starts by jazz accordion, a reggae stream flows in a straight path. Then Diego Fano’s saxophone, Yann Pajean’s percussions, and Renaud Bourquard’s bass follow the stream. Inspired by one of the greatest performers of reggae music, Bob Marley, they bring the old memory into Jamaican fashion. A delightful and elegant smooth jazz in “Le Temps de Souffler”, which means “The Time to Breath” really illuminates our soul, just like taking a breath of fresh air in the morning with a new hope. This song’s sent in a cool, light way. Put it simple, it’s a smooth jazz that’s wrapped in modern packaging. Easily those catchy melodies can lead us to a relaxing situation.
You’ll get the surprise on the third track, “Irish Diversion”. Solo accordion at the beginning totally captured a traditional Irish style, something that the trio loves to do like when they included it in the previous album. However a modern twist is touching on this simple line of melodies. Who’s going to think that a rockin’ sound of accordion brings a vicious part in the middle of the song, signalizes the energy of the 60’s and the percursors of The Beatles? “Stevenson Bossa” tells us about Pellarin’s journey with his wife to a pleasure hike in the center of France for over a week. The song was named after a Scottish writer, Robert Lewis Balfour Stevenson. A chic blend between bossa and touches of samba portrays the beautiful scenery of Stevenson trail. Just enjoy the wind, pasture and trees like an adventurer in a dreamland.
Then we have the expression of a father’s love in nu-jazz vibe, “CML”. Truthfully Pellarin made it for his children: C for Celine, M for Marion, and L for Lucas. A little bit about Lucas, he inherits his father’s creativity with different output. It’s Lucas actually who did the fine cover arts for this album and the previous one Karenita. This song is a genius, cool exploratory tune that could remind us to Miles Davis. This song bravely displays the passion of freedom. This may reflect the youth spirit and vivacity of his children that grow well with their own characters. The accordion and saxophone enliven their wild sides clearly, with the rock bass lights up the dynamic rhythm. They all shape a ‘full of fire’ harmony here.
“Live at Champlong” take us to a peaceful nuance of a place in France. The sweetness of French traditional walks on a modern line of jazz is such an enticing thing. When the accordion plays the sweet side, the percussions and saxophone move more swiftly. But in other part, those guys smoothly touch the sentimental point of it.
Let’s have fun with “Squeezebox Samba”! The fast tempo is a zeal booster for your daily moods. Listening to it is like having best friends or family gathering, simultaneously everybody takes part on the dance floor. Automatically you can’t handle your body to dance. All you need is just to enjoy the rhythm and feel the real aura of Brazilian and Latin jazz. Pellarin said, “This comes very naturally to me. It’s a mystery to someone who was trained as a classical musician at the beginning.” The quartet really got the vibes. Next song is “Tango Addiction”, a tango music box containing many modern sounds, almost close to rock but still keep the Latin nuance there. It reminds us to an Argentine tango composer and bandoneón player, Ástor Piazzolla. He is known as a musician who combines jazz and classical music.
“So Frenchy” is presented with full of album spirit which appears light as a bubble of French champagne. It raises the desire and freedom up, an evidence of today’s development of French pop music. Daringly the accordion, percussions, and saxophone signify the experimental tones building the uniqueness side of French. “Luz y Fuerza” as the last track presents different atmosphere in one tune. The first twenty seconds denotes some mellow melodies. But everything change when the guitar comes in. Inspired by many trips to Spain, they emphasize the wild and energetic pieces of Flamenco and Hispanic into this song. Actually it holds rich musical shades.
If you’re looking for some beautiful compositions of traditional French music, electric jazz, Latin, converged with reggae, and any kind of music in one album, Jacques Pellarin Quartet’s “Sup Dude” is the answer. We can hear the distinction between Sup Dude and their previous albums, especially with their new bassist Renaud Bourquard that gives more modern influence through electric sounds. Each of the quartet’s musical experiences and proficiencies came from divergent backgrounds, and that’s really an advantage because then they can play around wider with various choices. What’s great is that they can create a smart blend of those components into their own style. They have proved it in “Sup Dude”, an album full of brainy compositions that still feature the unique personality of France in the first place. Like Pellarin said, “I am French so no matter what my French attitude can still be felt by the audience.”
Jacques Pellarin Quartet can be an excellent example of how the jazz groups should do. They go out bravely doing so many explorations and play as wide as they want to without leaving their distinctive traditional musical face. They carry colorful nuances to produce affluent ambiences and feelings when listening to it. And music should be like this, enjoyable and memorable. This album also shows that music has no boundaries and has unlimited possibilities of creations. We enjoyed Jacques Pellarin Trio, now we welcome the new formation with respect. Imagine how much explorations can be done by adding up an interesting new talented player in a group. For us, we can’t help but wonder what other surprises they will bring next time. Before that, let’s enjoy this new masterpiece from them. C’est Magnifique!
Jacques Pellarin Quartet are:
Jacques Pellarin (acordion)
Yann Pajean (drums/percussions)
Diego Fano (saxophone)
Renaud Bourquard (electric bass)
Le Tempts de Souffler
Live at Champlong
Luz y Fuerza
Photos are provided by Jacques Pellarin