Jean-Sébastien Simonoviez: Vents & marées (RJA 397001)


Jean-Sébastien Simonoviez
Vents & marées

Jean-Sébastien Simonoviez piano
Recorded on February 22, 2000 and January 9, 2003 at Studios La Buissonne by Gérard de Haro
Mastered by Gilles Olivesi and Thomas Verdeaux at Studios La Buissonne
Release date: May 30, 2003

Vents & marées (Winds & tides) is the flagship release from the La Buissonne label, named for the studio of Gérard de Haro, famed engineer of many recent ECM productions and a soulful seeker of sound (ECM now distributes the label on its website). Appropriate, then, that de Haro should begin with the quintessential studio instrument: the solo piano. At the hands of Jean-Sébastien Simonoviez, its keys glisten like photographs just old enough to show patina but fresh enough to reflect the light just so under the lamp of interpretation.

The program shuffles together four distinctly different decks in a stack of magical proportions. A selection of standards stands out for its poise. An air of suspension permeates every molecule of “I Wish I Knew,” which Simonoviez plays as if unbound to time or place. “My Favorite Things” comes across with especial tenderness, and finds him enhancing the subtle balance of melancholy and joy that make the song so coniferous. And the way he shifts from reverie to glorious reality and back again throughout the course of “If I Should Lose You” is nothing short of exquisite.

Two John Coltrane tunes, “Naïma” and “Lonnie’s Lament,” showcase not only fearlessly self-reflective playing but also soulful engineering. Two dips into Bernard Herrmann’s film score to Fahrenheit 451, “The Bedroom” and “The Road,” are equally visual and flow with the precision of method actors who embody the power of every moment.

But the most substantive deck of all is comprised of Simonoviez’s own writing, which spans geographies and climates in a most organic way. The personal vibes of “Lumières (Pour Duke)” put in mind a bird flying for no other reason than to enjoy the sensation. The high clusters of “Tacha” fall like snow into happy memories, while “See” brings gentle urgency to the fore. “Winds & Tides” is the thesis statement and drips like candlewax into the abyss of time. Its gestures are palpable. Finally, “Paix” embraces us with thick harmonies and rolling waves.

As can be expected by anyone who has kept tabs on de Haro’s behind-the-scenes presence at ECM, the sound quality is impeccable—spacious without whelming, distant yet close enough to touch, and emotional without ever feeling ungenuine. Let this new journey begin, continue, and leave its mark.

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