Sylvain Luc ‘Trio Sud’
‘Trio Sud’, led by guitarist Sylvain Luc and featuring upright bassist Andre Ceccarelli and drummer Jean-Marc Jafet, offers a refreshing take on the classic guitar trio format, introducing lush arrangements of traditional folk tunes, lesser-worked compositions by eminent composers (two by Horace Silver and a Duke Jordan arrangement), a song by the criminally under-exposed Ary Barroso, two pensive pieces by Luc and one by bassist Jafet, along with surprising covers of shlock and shtick!
Luc’s influences are evident but not invasive, here a shadow of Lenny Breau, there a shade of Chet Atkins (only in the articulation…no Travis-pickin’ here!), an occasional nod to his gypsy brethren, and a sly wink acknowledging his debt to ‘Royal Albert Hall’ era John McLaughlin (another of the great guitar trios of all time), but throughout the LP his playing invokes images of the finest of piano trios through finesse and attention to detail.
No histrionics, no gratuitous flagellation, nothing that remotely resembles any archetypal guitarist’s works…in short, this is transcendent music that makes you forget it’s a guitarist at work, but instead transports you through its elegant grandeur and the symphonic sweep of the arrangements into a joyous world, enriched by the glorious bass-work, understated yet propulsive drums and subtle, lyrical interplay between these superb musicians.
‘Jordu’ opens the proceedings, Luc’s clean melodic lines in call-and-response with his diad-comping, deftly propelled along by the rhythm section. ‘Les Amants D’un Jour’ follows, Jafet’s bass-lines providing a murmuring under-current coaxed along by Ceccarelli’s subtle brush-work. ‘Xarmegaria’ is exquisite, both compositionally and in Luc’s ability to emphasize his melody notes while still giving weight to the chords he holds underneath. I imagine this is how Bill Evans would have played the guitar….
‘Out of the Night Came You’ with its ‘When You’re Gonna Fly…’ melody, the first of the Horace Silver-penned tunes, features a playful Jafet solo, and showcases Ceccarelli’s symbiotic percussion-work.
‘Eraldi’ the first of Luc’s originals, showcases his command of open-string chordal work and features his advanced yet lyrical approach to inner-voice movement.
‘La Complainte De La Butte’ again reveals Luc’s penchant for piano-inspired craftsmanship, ala Tristano and Evans, the emphasis being on strong statement of melody bolstered by dense accompaniment.
‘Pata Pata’ is bass-heavy, Jafet and Luc trading melodic lines in their respective lower registers, a refreshing tonal change of pace. Barry Manilow’s ‘Could This Be Magic’ (the shlock mentioned earlier) is transformed, radically, as is the Tarrega chestnut ‘Recuerdos De La Alhambra’ (you guessed it, shtick!), both of which are initially unrecognizable. Luc’s arrangements are sublime, particularly the ‘Recuerdos..’ …a slower than half-time reading of the melody, minus the tremolo which breaths new life into this tired piece, all too often played as a technical showcase. Steel string is featured here, tonally offering homage to Mr Atkins Delveccio Resonator…
‘Peace’ is rendered achingly and again the restraint and focus of the trio is remarkable. The beauty of the melody is emphasized by the impeccable sense of timing and the perfect pitch of Jafet.
A mention needs to be made of the remarkable quality of the bass’s tone, and the recording quality in general. The clarity of each of the notes sustained by Jafet is evident throughout, particularly when his role is to anchor the harmony. The drums are present, the cymbals particularly clear and non-abrasive, and the entire proceedings sounds like it was recorded in a beautiful room. The arrangements are often Spartan, a factor which can be revelatory if there are overdubs or issues with the performances. Absolutely beautiful.
‘Brazil’ ‘Irdir’ (the second Luc tune, masterful in its stop-start playfulness) and ‘Don’t Tell Me’ (Jafet’s lone compositional contribution, replete with ’lickety-split’ unison lines by both him and Luc, and a gnarled chromatic solo by the latter) are all three rhythmically more upbeat yet no less beatific, and close the disc with a flourish.
Summary: What’s wrong with music that just makes you smile? I listen to all kinds, from death metal to Finnish polkas, and almost all of it preaches, portends, purports, postures, pontificates or perpetrates, and when a disc comes along that simply, elegantly and eruditely reminds me of the real reasons I love music, I revel in the sheer pleasure of it unashamedly.