Alexis Valet, Following the Sun Review

Following the music: Alexis Valet’s Following the Sun


Alexis Valet, Following the Sun Review

Following the music: Alexis Valet’s Following the Sun

by Nolan DeBuke

Alexis-Valet-cdFrench vibraphonist Alexis Valet emerges with his latest offering, Following the Sun. This album, a product of Valet’s explorative three-month sojourn in New York City, encapsulates an expressive musical journey filled with the spirit of the city’s jazz scene. Following the Sun showcases Valet’s mastery of the vibraphone and features seasoned musicians, including Dayna Stephens on tenor saxophone, Aaron Parks on piano, Joe Martin on double bass, and Kush Abadey on drums.

Opening with “Ups and Downs,” the ensemble sets a dynamic pace with its straight-eight contemporary feel and shifting time signatures, reflecting the pulsating energy of New York. The ensemble starts in unison, with the vibraphone and tenor saxophone echoing each other’s motifs. The piece evolves from an intense urban pace to a more lyrical, elegiac vibe as Valet takes center stage with his expressive solos. The interplay between Parks and Stephens during their solos adds a rich, blues-infused layer to the track, making it a robust opener.

Echoing the anticipation of summer, “June” is a languid yet electric composition that bridges European jazz influences with the vibrant New York jazz scene. The track is marked by Parks’ inventive piano solos and Stephens’ fiery saxophone lines, creating an atmosphere of jubilant freedom. The ensemble navigates through various textures and colors, with each instrument contributing to a lively, celebratory mood.

“Dream of Integrity” was inspired by a night of reflective jamming; this track delves into the thematic depth of artistic integrity and respect among musicians. Abadey’s compelling drumming anchors the composition, providing a solid foundation for Valet’s introspective and densely woven vibraphone solos. The track stands out for its emotional depth and the seamless integration of complex rhythms and harmonies.

“Laika” is a somber tribute to Laika, the space-traveling dog; this piece poignantly reflects on sacrifice and remembrance. Introduced by Parks’ melancholic piano lines, the melody is tenderly developed by Stephens, highlighting the narrative’s emotional weight. Martin’s double bass solo adds a lyrical depth, enhancing the track’s reflective quality.

“Following the Sun,” the title track, pays homage to jazz greats and the collaborative spirit of the genre, with a vibrant composition characterized by rhythmic ostinatos and swinging segments that showcase the ensemble’s versatility. The track’s dynamic shifts underscore Valet’s thematic journey from Paris to New York, symbolizing a continuous quest for musical and personal enlightenment.

“Cypher” is a contemporary jazz piece that draws parallels between jazz improvisation and hip-hop cyphers, this track highlights the cultural intersections that enrich urban music. Each musician’s solo, particularly Valet’s, unfolds with clarity and creativity, supported by the rhythmic interplay of the ensemble. This composition exemplifies how contemporary jazz can dialogue with other musical traditions to create something new and exciting.

“Lekeitio,” named after a Basque coastal village, is infused with the warmth of childhood memories and friendships. The playful rhythmic interplay, especially the three-against-four patterns, showcases the ensemble’s ability to effortlessly blend complex rhythms, providing a lively and engaging listening experience.

“Myrtle” is a nod to Brooklyn’s vibrant street life and jazz clubs. Its brisk swing and robust solos encapsulate the urban spirit. Valet’s interaction with Abadey’s drums creates a compelling narrative, defining the tempo and delivering an energetic finale to the album.

In conclusion, Following the Sun is a record that speaks volumes of Alexis Valet’s growth as a musician and composer. The album reflects on personal experiences transformed into expansive soundscapes that resonate with listeners. Each track shows Valet’s virtuosity and celebrates his collaborative spirit, making Following the Sun a significant contemporary jazz find.

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