Wednesday, June 12, 2024

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Pilc-Moutin-Hoenig’s New Compilation Is A Surprisingly Enjoyable Record

Pianist Jean-Michel Pilc, bassist Francois Moutin, and drummer Ari Hoenig are scheduled to release their new album, YOU Are The Song Friday through Justin Time records.  The nine-song record, the trio’s first recording together in a dozen years, is an interesting blend of covers and originals that according to information provided in a news release, was recorded on the spot in June 2022 at the Big Orange Sheep in Brooklyn, NY.  The 53-minute presentation is a presentation that audiences will find engaging and entertaining through that mix of songs.  Among the most notable of the featured covers is the trio’s take of Thelonious Monk’s timeless classic ‘Straight No Chaser.’  The song will be examined shortly.  Of the two originals featured in the record, ‘Searing Congress’ stands out the most (at least to this critic).  Another notable cover included in the collection comes in the form of the hybrid closer, ‘Alice in Wonderland/My Romance.’  This track will also be examined later as it is quite the unique work in its own right.  All three songs bring their own unique touch to You Are The Song.  When they are considered along with the rest of the record’s entries, the whole makes the album a surprisingly engaging and entertaining presentation for any jazz fan.

YOU Are The Song, the new album from the trio of Jean-Michel Pilc, Francois Moutin, and Ari Hoenig, is an intriguing new offering from the group, especially considering it is the unit’s first record together in a dozen years.  It is composed primarily of covers of well-known jazz tunes (as well as some works from the stage and screen) along with a pair of originals.  On the surface, yes it is largely a covers compilation, but on a deeper level, it is a controlled manner of re-introducing audiences to the group so to speak.  Among the most notable of the record’s featured covers is that of Thelonious Monk’s timeless classic, ‘Straight No Chaser.’  Originally composed in 1951 by Monk, the song went on from there to be covered by countless artists and acts, not the least of which include the likes of Miles Davis, Chick Corea, and even John McLaughlin.  That goes to show the reach of the song’s popularity and influence.  Monk’s original is a light, mid-tempo composition driven largely by its piano line, performed by Monk.  The saxophone line (performed by Sahib Shihab) and vibraphone line (performed just as expertly by Milt Jackson) create such a strong supporting role alongside legendary drummer Art Blakey’s steady time keeping on the drums.  His use of the brushes on the snare and the steady time keeping on the drums makes for so much engagement and entertainment.

Pilc, Moutin, and Hoenig’s take on the classic gives it a whole new identity, opening with Moutin’s bass line in place of the piano line.  What sounds like Pilc beating on the piano’s strings adds a rather artsy touch to the whole as Moutin puts his own touch on the composition as he pulls the bass’ strings.  Hoenig meanwhile keeps the song moving fluidly as he keeps time.  The flourishes that Pilc adds to the mix almost give the cover something of a free jazz feel.  Needless to say it makes this cover anything but the original.  That is not necessarily a bad thing, though.  It is just quite unique to say the very least.  It requires audiences to immerse themselves in the song in order to really appreciate the direction they opted to go with this song.  All in all, the cover makes the song a whole new entity that is surprisingly engaging and entertaining.

Moving to the record’s original works, the most notable of those two works is the group’s composition, ‘Searing Congress.’  Sadly, there are no liner notes with the album’s physical release, so it is difficult to know the inspiration for this song.  However, knowing from the material presented to the press that the group’s recording is composed entirely of first takes, on the spot, it is likely there was no direct inspiration, but rather that the song evolved organically during the live session.  It really makes the song all the more engaging and entertaining, knowing that it just developed on the spot.  It starts out as a light, almost bop style work thanks to Pilc’s work on the piano and Moutin’s work on the bass.  Hoenig just followed suit of his fellow musicians, making the song all the more enjoyable.  As the song progresses, it develops a bit of a free jazz approach, as is evidenced by all three musicians.  The thing is that even with that approach in mind, there is still a sense of control amidst the chaos that adds even more to the song’s appeal.  The whole of the song is a surprisingly enjoyable exhibition of the trio’s creativity and will certainly appeal to the group’s fans and to most jazz fans.

Getting back to the many covers that make up most of YOU Are The Song, another notable cover featured in this record is its closer, the medley of the theme song to Disney’s original 1951 animated take of Alice in Wonderland and the song, ‘My Romance’ from Rogers and Hammerstein’s 1935 musical, ‘Jumbo.’  Anyone who has ever seen the original 1951 take of Alice in Wonderland will recall the movie’s original theme is a wonderful orchestral piece complete with choral accompaniment.  The song is presented in a major chord to help set a positive mood for viewers.  The song’s presentation here is much more…contemplative, with Moutin leading the way alongside Pilc.  Pilc opted to perform the song’s main line in a minor chord while still giving the song an almost ethereal vibe alongside the work of Moutin and Hoenig.  The back and forth of the more subtle approach and more energetic moments makes for such a unique work that must be heard in order to be fully appreciated.

The group’s take of ‘My Romance’ is just as intriguing as it actually incorporates a well-known Miles Davis composition to transition into the cover from the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ theme cover.  The trio’s cover of ‘My Romance’ is much more subdued than the original from Rogers and Hammerstein, utilizing such a controlled piano line at its heart and equally subtle bass line and drums.  The light touch that Houtin uses with the brushes on the snare and the equally reserved approach that Moutin takes on the bass makes this song its own unique work separate from its source material.  If anything it is closer to the rendition made famous by Ella Fitzgerald than the original from the musical.  Even with that in mind, it is still an interesting presentation and when it is considered with the other songs examined here and with the rest of the record’s entries, the whole makes YOU Are The Song a fully enjoyable compilation.

YOU Are The Song, the new compilation record from the trio of Jean-Michel Pilc, Fracois Moutin and Ari Hoenig, is a presentation that even being a compilation, is well worth hearing at least once.  That is proven through the covers and the original all examined here.  The group has managed to give each of the covers featured here their own unique identities along with the originals.  When the songs examined here are considered along with the record’s other entries, the whole makes the record a compilation that is surprisingly worth hearing.

YOU Are The Song is available now through Justin Time Records.  More information on this and other titles from Justin Time Records is available at: