Matt Pierce, Splendid E-Zine, June 24, 2004

The official history of jazz, with its New-Orleans-to-swing-to-bop-to-cool-to-fusion-to-free-to-?? continuum, reads like an evolutionary epic, and contemporary fans who like to think of jazz as a living, even controversial art form, rather than a chapter in a high school textbook on American history, might balk at the fact that this French-Canadian trio play swing, play notes, play songs, when that sort of thing went the way of the dinosaur after Ornette Coleman dropped Free Jazz way back in 1960. But on this bare-bones recording, Jean Derome (sax, flutes), Normand Guilbeault (bass) and Pierre Tanguay (drums) prove that a visit to a couple of old forms doesn’t have to rest on a bed of nostalgia, that walking bass and key changes don’t necessarily preclude freer sounds, and, most importantly, that good jazz is less a style than a spirit, a way of interacting and playing that swings, in the most liberal sense of the word.

Marcher Sur Des Braises starts the album off with a spare shuffle from Tanguay and a little in-joke from Guilbeault, who plucks a rudimentary version of those three chords you can find in every Guide to Playing Rock Guitar under “Blues Chug” or some such heading, as if to say, “Rock can get away with the same thing decade after decade, so why can’t we?” Derome follows up with a low, crystal-clear theme straight from the Coltrane songbook, and when Guilbeault walks away from his blues progression into higher registers, Derome follows with a minimal but hard-hitting solo that touches a few blue notes in between its more refined runs. Both Vérone and Pangolin keep up this hard-boiled, hard-thinking approach to swing, the first with dark and gorgeous open chords from Guilbeault, unassuming melodicism from Derome and a punchy beat with a generous bass end from Tanguay, and the second with Tanguay’s slow and spacious drum work and Derome’s slinky turn on baritone sax, which erupts into a few Dolphy-like squeals near the end of the track. When the trio decide to take on worlds outside the explicit parameters of swing, they take their focus with them and make every exploratory minute worth the trip: refer to the loosely-bound mini-epic L’Africaine, on which Derome takes off for high-altitude abstractions, and Fluide, an exercise in classical serialism.

In spite of their straight-up beat, rockish bass touches and moments of clear melody, this trio plays anything but NPR jazz. Their approach is hard-hitting and well-versed in the sort of rebellious, free-thinking spirit that infects all types of jazz. As a result, 10 Compositions is an intense success.

… hard-hitting and well-versed in the sort of rebellious, free-thinking spirit that infects all types of jazz.