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Nate Dorward, Nate Dorward’s Music Reviews, 1 septembre 2006

An album featuring a choir of seven clarinettists might be overkill, but Pee Wee et Moi, Robert Marcel Lepage’s tribute to the clarinettist Pee Wee Russell, turns out to be a charmer. Tribute albums to jazz’s canonical royalty – Coltrane, Monk, Bird and so on – tend to feel self-conscious and overburdened by the Great Tradition; but there’s no such problem with Russell, one of jazz’s great mavericks (and great faces: Lepage’s cartoons of his mournful basset-hound visage adorn the CD sleeve). Lepage’s composite mosaic portrait of the dedicatee takes its inspiration from his blues-playing: Pee Wee’s Blues and Muskogee Blues are played straight and also serve as sourcebooks for Lepage’s own originals. A few abrasive postmodernist touches keep this from turning into a revivalist project, but most of the album works off a slinky, warped blues vibe that’s absolutely faithful to the spirit of Russell’s music. René Lussier’s razzledazzle Eddie-Condon-meets-Eugene-Chadbourne guitar work is the finishing touch.

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