with Karl Berger


NYC Jazz Record

Sylvain Leroux, originally based in Montreal, has been recording with African and world-beat ensembles since 1978, so he comes to this debut as leader with a fully developed musical personality. He also studied atthe Creative Music Studio in Woodstock in its early years and in 1981 founded a quartet called Mysterioso, devoted to the music of Thelonious Monk, influences that are also apparent here. Leroux started out as a flutist/alto saxophonist and while he plays those instruments, a trip to Guinea in the mid ‘90s expanded his sonic palette considerably: he studied the tambin (Fulani reed flute) and he also plays the donso ngoni, a West African lute. The khaen, a Laotian mouth organ, completes his arsenal.

Quatuor Créole sets Leroux, his various instruments and his compositions in a fine quartet with bassist Matt Pavolka, Haitian percussionist Sergo Décius and Karl Berger, Leroux’ mentor from the Creative Music Studio, on piano and vibraphone. The initial impression of the music is, perhaps inevitably, that it’s exotic, its frequently African-sourced rhythms articulated by Berger’s glittering vibraphone and Pavolka’s percussive bass, all matched with Décius’ hand drums and Leroux’ airy flutes, buzzing lute and sometimes chanted vocals. But once you’re immersed in it, you realize how comfortably attuned they are to all of this and just how much they’re accomplishing.

The approach is ultimately minimal. The sounds might be both distinctive and diverse, but everyone is creating maximum rhythmic effect with the fewest possible notes and richest sounds, fusing complex polyrhythms and infectious melodies without unnecessary decoration. A certain hyper-resonance infuses the music with a spacious outdoor feeling, as if it’s taking place in a sun-lit forest. The instruments sound continuous with the materials from which they’re made and the musicians playing them.

—Stuart Broomer, New York City Jazz Record, April 2013 #132



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