Gilles Bernard, 4 Rue Durocher

by Nolan DeBuke

Throughout pianist Gilles Bernard’s career, he has collaborated with many renowned musicians in the Quebec jazz community, with a career spanning from 1985 to present some of his collaborations have included John Zorn, Ellis Marsalis, Ranee Lee and more.  On his album 4 Rue Durocher, Gilles explores an angular modern jazz path with longtime collaborator, bassist Pierre Côté, and new faces, tenor saxophonist Thiago Ferté with drummer Louis-Vincent Hamel.

“Agathe” is an original composition by Bernard that has an interesting shifting pulse that flows through a form that is evolving and logical. Ferté’s saxophone and Bernard’s piano double the melody for the majority of the melody.  Their phrasing and combined focus is exceptionally musical. Ferté’s solo starts with patient lines that spend just as much time listening as playing. Bernard is a consummate listener too. Always letting the music tell him when and when not to play, letting his improvisation methodically evolve into a strong musical statement.

The quartet kicks into high gear for “Le Vent.” A selection that is set to an up-tempo swing and displays Ferté and Bernard’s conversational skills. Bernard is constantly commenting and pushing Ferté during his solo to build and communicate. For Bernard’s solo the conversation is between Hamel’s rhythmic flurries and Bernard’s choice of right-hand patterns. The music benefits from these conversations, as the track evolves over time. Coté turns in a fine solo that melodically covers the full register of his double bass.

Each tune is thoughtfully constructed with elegant musings at times and darkly modernized lines of tension and release. Each musician is a befitting foil to the other, all pushing each to the brink of mindful creativity, while not allowing the music to linger or become stagnant.  It is in the details and the commenting where you hear the subtle mastery residing.  A must listen, though this took me a while to get to, I am glad I revisited it again as it certainly withstood the initial listen.

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