For thirty years, classical guitarist André Duchesne has been playing Left Bank (Left Bank? How gauche!) cabaret jazz. Smoke-filled improvisation rules most of this album, with song structure either out of the picture, or too complex to be appreciated fully. There is no doubt as to Duchesne’s ability: he paints himself into a corner many times, only to gracefully slip away. This is not to say that all lovers of the nylon strings will enjoy Poloroide; it is quite demanding, and does not lend itself to casual ears. Duchesne asks his listeners to tolerate all of the aimless, uninspired parts in order to hear the more sublimely melodic in a new light.
Typical of Duchesne’s sound is Polaroide II, which opens with an amiable guitar solo reminiscent of Debussy’s The Girl with the Flaxen Hair. Suddenly, the melody gives way to an atonal mode. As Duchesne’s guitar tone darkens, it is also marked by a wash of cymbals and a mournful violin, completing the threnody. Not exactly Django Reinhardt, but I’m sure that Duchesne would welcome the contrast. His music is purposefully difficult and hard to follow (imagine start-stop experimental jazz improvised by a guitar novice), but his readings retain a healthy measure of poetry. Luckily, the musicianship saves this album from its most awkward moments, creating a fine snapshot indeed.