Frédéric Alarie Trio – Enjoy

RELEASED: September 03, 2013

For the first time since 1998’s Motion, Canadian bassist Frédéric Alarie assembles a trio setup for his latest release, entitled Enjoy. In addition to drummer Michel Lambert, who also performed on Motion along with saxophonist Kelly Jefferson, Montreal-born trumpeter Jacques Kuba Séguin joins the lineup. Enjoy’s ten tracks sprawl out over fifty minutes, beginning with a solo from Séguin on opener “Connection” before Alarie enters with a lengthy brooding note and overdubbed plucks and scrapes from the bass. This moody feeling stretches throughout the album, with a heavy majority of minor keys and slow tempos. The pace is occasionally quickened on tracks like “Inner World” with a section that feels almost march-like in its snare rolls and and eighth-note bass lines, but they also quickly dissolve into more spacy, unsettling melodies. Though Alarie is the leader of the ensemble, he allows plenty of room for Séguin and Lambert to be heard, though usually in sporadic, shorter phrases; and his bass playing tends to drive the rhythm more than the drumset at times, whose more key role is to add flair with rolls and crashes.

Despite the moodiness of the album and fluid connections where one song becomes the next, Enjoy often plods along too slowly. The higher-tempo elements in “Inner World” and highlight “Enjoy Menuetto Groove,” which fluctuates between major and minor keys, spark some life into the set, but cannot save the rest of it from muddling together. Though all three are technically skilled players, Séguin’s articulation and tone are at times wispy and half-hearted, which drag down some of his musical ideas, whereas solidity in those areas would create a fuller sound and stronger melodic feel. There are promising moments on the album: “Greatness” nearly grows into an uplifting, ethereal zenith before unfortunately fading out too quickly; “Ligneous Plant” creates variations on similar melodies above shifting styles of percussion; and the fluid movements that flow the end of one song right into the beginning of the next show the potential for intriguing sonic cohesion that stretches beyond the few connecting seconds between the songs. While Enjoy’s gray-sky melodies create a potentially interesting counterpoint to its seemingly-cheerful title, much of the material on the record fails to evoke similar appeal.

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