Simply put, this is Robert Marcel Lepage at his best: witty, funny, acrobatic and jazzy. Pee Wee et Moi signals a return to the creative heights of La Traversée de la Mémoire Morte, Adieu Léonardo and Les clarinettes ont-elles un escalier de secours. The “Pee Wee" in question is clarinetist and band leader Pee Wee Russell. Here, Lepage pays tribute to the man in his very own special way: by assembling a seven-piece clarinet section playing Lepage originals written as Russell pastiches. The results are simply wonderful, pairing up Russell’s swing and idiosyncrasies with Lepage’s bouncy, let’s-break-the-rules-and-have-fun-while-doing-so style. His arrangements for the clarinet section are lush and inventive, with plenty of group playing and a judiciously small number of solos (it would have been nice to know who plays them, though). Besides Lepage, Guillaume Bourque, Jean-Sébastien Leblanc, André Moisan, Pierre-Emmanuel Poizat, Richard Simas and the Vancouver jazz mainstay François Houle handle the clarinets. Lepage did a wonderful job at reinventing Russell’s style and incarnating the master’s spirit into his own brand of music, but Pee Wee et Moi is also noteworthy for reasons slightly beyond Lepage: it marks guitarist René Lussier’s first appearance on an Ambiances Magnétiques recording since his late-’90s fallout with the label. And that is another reason to rejoice! Lussier’s wacky off-the-wall playing (often sounding like the missing link between Fred Frith and Eugene Chadbourne and heavily featured throughout the album. Bassist Normard Guilbeault and drummer Pierre Tanguay round up the impressive formation. The set list consists of 12 Lepage originals book-ended by two Russell covers, Pee Wee’s Blues and Muskagee Blues. The album is released in Ambiances Magnétiques “Jazz" series, but in spirit, it sounds closer to the label’s vintage “musique actuelle" sound of the ’80s and ’90s than any other release in that series. A late-2005 must-have.