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Jean-Luc Payssan - 2005 - "Pierrots & Arlequins"

(40 min, Musea)

TRACK LIST:                    
1.  La Fantasie 2:48
2.  Arlequins 2:28
3.  Pierrots 1:17
4.  Etats de Joie 5:18
5.  Dance Vivace pour Six Cordes 3:00
6.  An Bois Variations 4:40
7.  Le Manege aux Songs 2:21
8.  Prelude 1:43
9.  L'Enjoleuse 2:17
10. La Reveuse 4:25
11. La Fougueuse 1:15
12. Gaillarde Napolitaine 3:00
13. Larmes Bleues 4:04
14. Complainte Ancienne 1:37


Jean-Luc Payssan - classical & acoustic guitar,
- mandolas, theorbe, zither; percussion; vocals 
Bernard Millon - violin 
Sonia Nedelec - vocals
Thierry Payssan - synthesizer, organ

Prolusion. Multi-instrumentalist and composer Jean-Luc PAYSSAN is known probably to any connoisseur of contemporary progressive music for being one of the founders and primary masterminds of the excellent French band Minimum Vital and its daughter project Vital Duo. Already the title of his first solo album, "Pierrots & Arlequins", made me excited about it, and listening has proved that I didn't miss with my originally positive expectations.

Analysis. This 40-minute recording is comprised of 14 tracks, and while most of them are quite short, none is a sketch, let alone makeweight. Quite the contrary, all of them without exception are complete (down to the smallest nuances) thought-out compositions, displaying an academically scrupulous approach to songwriting. No repeats or overextensions. There is just perfect music - genuinely inspired, complex, beautiful and full of magic all at the same time. Amazing! Four tracks: Arlequins, Etats de Joie, L'Enjoleuse and Gaillarde Napolitaine come with lyrical content and feature the performance of all of the musicians whose names you can see in the lineup above, Jean-Luc's brother Thierry and Sonia Nedelec being his partners in Minimum Vital. Performed with cymbals and tambourines instead of a drum kit, each sounds like an acoustically more pronounced version of Minimum Vital's trademark style, which is a synthesis of Art-Rock, medieval folk and Baroque classical music. Jean-Luc and Sonia share the leads in the vocal department, and their choir singing arouses instant associations with that typical for their primary band's latest two outings, "Esprit D'Amor" and "Atlas". The instrumental palette is woven of the patterns provided by each of the instruments credited and is amazingly polychromatic, partly also due to Thierry's synthesizer, which often sounds much like a small chamber ensemble, and the subtle overdubs as well. La Fougueuse doesn't contain vocals, but is similar on the general musical plane. All of the other non-vocal compositions remind me much of the works of Baroque classical music, regardless of the assortment of instruments used in each particular case. An Bois Variations and Prelude display constantly developing interaction between passages of acoustic guitar and, respectively, those of violin and synthetic woodwinds. The other half of the tracks: Pierrots, Dance Vivace pour Six Cordes, Prelude, La Reveuse, Larmes Bleues and Complainte Ancienne are Jean-Luc's solo performances and are little concertos either for a single classical guitar or for a few traditional and exotic acoustic stringed instruments (mandola, zither and theorbe), La Reveuse being the brightest example of the latter combination. What is especially wonderful about most of these seven is the presence of vivid tempo changes in the absence of any rhythms! I don't know if they were performed from scores, but their distinctive academic nature shows Jean-Luc's thorough knowledge of the canons of classical music in any case. Back to the album as a whole, I'd like to mention that while listening to it, I experience the same wonderful magic feeling I have when I hear Steve Hackett's "Voyage of the Acolyte", despite some essential distinctions between them.

Conclusion. It's only within the grasp of really huge musicians to make their works sound compact and significant at once, and here is just the case. Jean-Luc Payssan's "Pierrots & Arlequins" is simply one of the best acoustic guitar Prog-related albums I've ever heard. Perfect length, perfect music. Wholeheartedly recommended.

VM: March 14, 2006

Related Links:

Musea Records


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