Rather than continue to advance her quickly growing career with a batch of originals, Canadian guitarist and composer, 2021 JUNO Award winner Jocelyn Gould opts for some comfort by including standards and deferring to her colleague and mentor, guitarist Randy Napoleon, who has three of the nine tunes here while Gould has just one. On the plus side, you hear two very talented guitarists and a first-rate band that includes veteran bassist Rodney Whitaker, emerging Texas drummer Quincy Davis, and fellow Canadians clarinetist Virginia MacDonald (on four tracks) and pianist Will Boness. Indeed, this is a cast that would be difficult to schedule for a multi-day studio session. This one, in fact, took place in one day, following Gould’s six-week, thirty-three U.S. concert tour. So, fresh off that energy it’s understandable that they play a club-like repertoire on Sonic Bouquet. Again, Gould has long wanted to record with Napoleon and the two shared the arrangements, with Gould doing five and Napoleon four, three of which were on his originals. Consider also that this is a most unusual front line with two guitarists and a clarinetist. That alone is the most interesting aspect of the album which otherwise is a classy, well played session and although they are essentially replicating a live session, the emphasis, with the inclusion of four covers in the first five tunes, is on connecting with an audience through mostly familiar material rather than sending up all kinds of fireworks.
The lead track, Gould’s original, “Trail Blazer,” is the most dynamic. The two guitarists interweave their lines before ceding to a glistening solo from Boness, back to the guitars playing in unison before each solos to a steady, swinging groove laid down by Whitaker and Davis. Sammy Fain’s “Tender is the Night” cruises along nicely at a relaxed tempo with exceptionally clean guitar tone from both and a swinging turn from Boness. The ballad “My Foolish Heart” shows the guitarists’ ability to deliver melody in just a few, unhurried, well-placed notes, letting those same notes linger as if suspended while the rhythm section plays with requisite restraint. This is a must hear for guitarists (as is the case with the album but especially this one).
MacDonald makes her first appearance on Joe Henderson’s “The Kicker,” a hard bop tune with the band locking in tightly behind Gould and Napoleon’s fluid rapid runs, each answering the other in kind. MacDonald presumably interprets Henderson’s solo, soaring equally as fluidly as her bandmates. Quincy Jones’ “Jessica’s Birthday” is the first reveal of the front line playing in unison. The bluesy tune has an infectious vamp that ensues after each solo. MacDonald’s stunning entrance after the first guitar solo is one of the session’s prime moments. It’s one of those tunes, that even if you haven’t heard it before, you’ll swear it sounds familiar. The final cover is Duke Pearson’s oft interpreted “Is That So?” which this sextet renders this swinger faithfully with MacDonald, mostly in the lower registers here, offering quite a contrast to the guitars before she launches into the upper reaches. Again, the clarinet-guitar segue is noteworthy in its remarkable smoothness.
Randy Napoleon contributes his three. “Spring Regardless” has a strong walking bassline for Whitaker and swings coolly with the guitarists echoing each other’s lines. “Last of the Rounders” has an angular rhythm with MacDonald the first to deliver its bluesy lines, followed by the guitarists. Nonetheless, it stays at a refined vibe, never approaching the gritty territory that at times it suggests. The album closer, “Napoleon’s Prelude” has an opening section that has the most riveting guitar interplay in the session, but from there becomes a conventional swinger that gallops along.
The album is a must listen for guitarists. For the rest, it will play as a solid, superbly executed jazz session. Gould has demonstrated her talents as a musician, composer, and here especially as a bandleader. We’d like to hear more of her own compositions next time out. In the meantime, this will do just fine.
- Jim Hynes
Help Support Making a Scene
Your Support helps us pay for our server and allows us to continue to bring you the best coverage for the Indie Artists and the fans that Love them!
Make a one-time donation
Make a monthly donation
Make a yearly donation
Choose an amount
Or enter a custom amount
Your contribution is appreciated.
Your contribution is appreciated.
Your contribution is appreciated.DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly