This week’s theme seems to be mostly about Canadian artists. Jazz guitarist, educator, and composer Greg Amirault originally hails from Nova Scotia and has been living and performing in the Montreal area for over three decades. As an educator he teaches at the prestigious McGill and Concordia Universities. He has amassed numerous awards and is a mainstay in the Montreal jazz scene. News Blues is Amirault’s third as a leader and features his brother, Steve Amirault on piano, Adrian Vedaddy on bass, and Jim Doxas (of the Doxas brothers) on drums. The interplay is telepathic between these four who have been playing together in a variety of configurations for over twenty years. Seven of the nine compositions are originals along with two jazz standards.
A good reference point for the sound is the Wes Montgomery Quartet of the mid-1960s with Harold Mabern on piano and the customary upright or double bass and drums. Greg has a very clean guitar sound and while he lives primarily in the straight-ahead style as in the swinging opening title track, he moves quickly into more contemporary sounds with “Tribute Tune” and “Meeting the Master.” The melody and angular nature of “Sweet Way” evoke Monk with Amirault’s leads flowing fluidly over complex rhythm patterns. The road smooths out nicely for a gentle stroll through “Song for Nova Scotia,” a gorgeous folk melody that nods to his birthplace.
“Uninvited” returns to the swinging style of the opener with brother Steve comping behind Greg’s lead as the rhythm tandem keeps a steady mid-tempo beat before Steve steps forth with his own statement, followed by Vedaddy’s brief bass solo, all leading to an abrupt close. Amirault then goes solo for the first of two pieces, the ballad “If You Could See Me Now,” composed by Tadd Dameron in 1946 and as the closer, the Gershwins’ “Embraceable You.” Sandwiched in between is up-tempo swinger, “Reissued,” with the quartet having fun, quoting some favorite melodies amidst the piece, as Vedaddy’s walking bass and Doxas’ propulsive beats underpin the solos from each brother, culminating in the conventional drums-guitar, drums-piano exchanges on the eights.
Amirault’s News Blues is relaxing jazz guitar album with a variety of styles and moods. The musicianship is stellar throughout, as one would expect from these veterans who are steeped in a fine sense of melody and seemingly effortless interplay.
- Jim Hynes