Eric St-Laurent Trio
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Eric St-Laurent Trio

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"All About Jazz Album Review of Eric St-Laurent Trio's Ruby"

Eric St-Laurent Trio - Ruby - All About Jazz CD Review
Eric St-Laurent Trio (Self Produced)
By Jerry D'Souza
Montreal born guitarist Eric St-Laurent learned to play the instrument in his
home town before moving to New York, where he mastered the art of
improvisation. While many jazz musicians would have been happy to find a
grounding in New York, St-Laurent had a wider vision. He then moved to
Berlin, where he played with German and Scandinavian bands during the 10
years he lived there. As an adjunct, he also began composing music for film.
With that under his belt, he moved to Toronto, Canada, a city that offered
many more opportunities, as he made his presence felt playing with his trio
and Carlos Del Junco, as well as with prime Canadian musicians including Richard Underhill and the
Shuffle Demons.
Afro-Cuban music is the core of a trio that sets it up with style on “Ruby.” The melody dances in on the
fly, with percussionist Michel DeQuevedo edging St-Laurent. The guitarist plays full-bodied, wellrounded
notes, his enunciation clear and immersed in the refrain. When he takes off on a trajectory, his
ideas are judicious and do not forsake the nectar of the tune. DeQuevedo ups the ante with his pulsing
sense of rhythm, turning this track into an absolute delight.
“Epic” has an air of classicism, built on bassist Jordan O'Connor's arco, which dissolves into an
improvisatory unison as the trio opens up new avenues, the approach deliberate yet convincing as it
moves down unusual alleyways and opens surprising vents of invention. And then, in a renewed burst
of inspiration, the trio ups the tempo and closes out in an array of dazzling color.
The CD also features vocalists Kgomotso Tsatsi and Justin Bacchus. Tsatsi has a haunting voice that
cleaves to the emotion of the African-inspired “Ukumamahteka.” She and St-Laurent imbue the song
with a resplendent beauty, the acoustic guitar providing the shimmering bedrock for the swaying
vocals. “Breaking at the Seams” is the lyrical Bacchus' vehicle, a ballad nestled in the cup of a voice
that makes the most of the melody, as it conveys heartbreak with understated power.
With Ruby, St-Laurent goes well beyond Afro-Cuban music, to show how much at ease he is in various
idioms. His approach can be spare or full-bodied, or it can take off from the written note or find its soul
in free motifs.
Track Listing:Ruby; Foudoz; Molly; Poisson; Graf Grack; Ukumamahteka; Wild Intent; Breaking at
the Seams; Epic.
Personnel: Eric St-Laurent: guitar; Jordon O'Connor: bass; Michel DeQuevedo: percussion; Justin
Bacchus: vocals (7); Kgomotso Tsatsi: vocals (6).
All material copyright © 2011 All About Jazz and/or contributing writer/visual artist. All rights
reserved. - All About Jazz


"Have to be seen to be believed"

Eric St. Laurent and his trio have to be seen to be believed. One of the most unique, kick-ass bands in the country! - Jaymz Bee, JazzFM91


"Eric St. Laurent knows how to handle a guitar."

Eric St. Laurent knows how to handle a guitar. With sounds ranging from Ali Farka Toure through that of the African harp known as the balaphon to the electric frenzy of Hendrix, this 10-part suite will delight music fans and keep guitar aficionados guessing as to how St. Laurent managed to create such an incredibly rich tapestry. In addition to guitar, St. Laurent performs on piano and electronics accompanied by Turkish musicians Bikem Kücük on percussion, predominantly tablas, and Turgay Hikmet on bass clarinet and piano. The trio met in Istanbul where St. Laurent was performing a concert. He returned six months later with a team of Berlin sound engineers to record this album of what he calls South East Asian sounds. Truly an international realization worthy of being funded by the UN, which it wasn’t. - John Herbert Cunningham, The Uniter,


"Review of "Dimension d'Istanbul" by Liam Cagney on Musical Criticism"

Eric St-Laurent is a Montreal-born composer and guitarist. He has previously spent some years living in Berlin recording and performing with a number of different artists, and is currently based in Toronto.

Dimensions d'Istanbul sees him team up with percussionist Bikem Küçük and clarinettist/keyboardist Turgay Hikmet for a ten-part suite, composed by St-Laurent, inspired by the eponymous city. The Canadian met the two other performers while in Istanbul in 2006, and after composing the work, appropriately enough returned to that city to set it to record with them.

The style of the music broadly speaking locates the album within a world music idiom. But it might just as readily fit with a contemporary or ambient designation. The style is quite an individual one, with equal weight shouldered by composition and performance in moulding the final character taken by the suite.

Most of the pieces on the album are built around the foundation of St-Laurent's guitar. This acoustic guitar is utilised in different ways throughout, articulating diverse scales for high solos and oblique arpeggiated patterns, or striking natural harmonics and chords. This structural function of the guitar is built upon by the other two performers to conjure the texture of sound in play throughout.

The opening number, Taksim, launches us on the journey with some jolting, open whole-tone scale movements, their timing unpredictable, sounded on guitar and keyboard, with an occasional gong resounding, ushering the ear into the record and the imagination into the record's city. These spaced out scalar flourishes gradually coalesce into a semi-regular harmonic progression. The title track follows, with a more prominent percussion part driving the piece along in a regular and open groove, with Laurent's guitar soloing over it, and interpolated by menacing Eastern riffs played in unison on guitar and keyboard, accompanied by percussion resonance and synthesizer washes.

One's imagination can't help but drift with the progression of the suite through its successive and usually contrasting parts. Each of them intends to cast a different light on the city of Istanbul, to find a different route through it, in a like manner to Messiaen's Vingt regards sur l'enfant Jésu in its shifting perspectives on a single object of consideration. The music invites the listener's transportation, as something of a tonic and lure to one walled into their cosy grey concrete Western environment, compassed by the general dearth of imagination. Boredom dreams of scaffolds, as somebody said, and the dream of exoticism peers through.

A feature of the record throughout is the admixing of Eastern harmonic elements with more normatively Western ones. In Les sept collines, for example, a repeated ostinato figure, on double-tracked guitar, orbiting around an Eastern scale, is accompanied by a synthesizer pad, lending the jutting notes of the guitar an unexpected partner. The heart of the music throughout the suite is to overlook such provisional generic boundaries, a spirit of adventure inhering in their stead. The soloing guitar, chiming scales and chugging percussion of Bosphore - Botmozoph admit all into their mix, the impulse towards conjunction in live performance, between different musicians, being the force of attraction guiding the musical thrust. Another case in point is when the mostly acoustic elements of Bosphore - Botmozoph are immediately followed in the next track, Le feu grec, by some tough DSP'ed computer rhythms, the electronic percussion driving along in a crunched up ball, to the accompaniment of minor pentatonic, Gamelan-esque percussion sounds on synthesizer.

Another way the music melds Western and Eastern compositional qualities is in the casting together of aperiodic rhythms – rhythm without any audible metre – with periodic pulsations on traditional drums. In La citerne basilique, for example, repeated notes on guitar and keyboard act in a sort of 'arhythmic', unpredictable fashion, familiar to listeners of contemporary classical music or free improvisation, all the while watched over by a regular pattering on drums.

A misstep in this reviewer's opinion comes with the purely electronic track, Le grand bazaar, which comes out of nowhere in the guise of a stray track from a Warp records sampler, with stretched and manic beats sliced together and stitched into a vocal sample that sounds like something from South Park. But then again, the complete ill-fitting randomness of it is the kind of thing I usually like, so maybe it's not such a bad thing.

This track segues back into the familiar territory mapped out on the rest of the material for the album's last two tracks. The unison melodic spurts on Yeralti Camii, as well as the rhythmic modulations, bring to mind the Mashavishnu Orchestra. Trois oiseaux ottomans ends the album in a bit of an anticlimax, initially sounding a bit too much like a studio jam. It detracts a little from the overall atmosphere swathed around the rest of the album.

Eric St-Laurent writes on the sleeve notes: 'I hope that this music will give you cause to day-dream for a moment or two.' An unassuming message, a refreshingly unpretentious sentiment, and an accurate summary of the music's effect.

By Liam Cagney - Liam Cagley, Musical Criticism


Discography

RUBY (2011)
featuring: Justin Bacchus, Kgomotso Tsatsi

EPOCH (2010)
featuring: Justin Bacchus, Kgomotso Tsatsi and Julie Crochetière

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Bio

"Eric St. Laurent and his trio have to be seen to be believed. One of the most unique, kick-ass bands in the country!"
Jaymz Bee - Jazz FM 91

Playing the compositions of guitarist, Eric St-Laurent, and joined by the unique and highly virtuosic rhythm section of Jordan O'Connor (double bass) and Michel DeQuevedo (percussion), the trio creates joy, excitement - and a few other emotions that simply haven't been named yet. At the heart of it; Afro-Cuban rhythms combined with jazz openness and blues sensibilities that give way to lyrical melodies and infectious grooves and riffs.

Their live show leads the audience on a musical foray as rich and diverse as the the city they live in. The arrangements are transparent, the mood is intimate and the songs, uplifting. Inspired by world rhythms and world travel, the trio revels in the new interpretations unveiled at each performance through the magic of improvisation.

Eric St-Laurent
Winner of the SOCAN award for best original composition at the Montréal Jazz Festival and The Best Band Award at the Vienne (France) Jazz Festival. St-Laurent has been featured on over 30 recordings, has produced albums, written scores for short films and theatre, and toured extensively in Europe and Canada. Born and raised in Montreal, St-Laurent studied improvisation in New York and then moved to Berlin where he toured with both the big and small names of the Germany and Scandinavian music scene. Since returning to Toronto, Canada, St-Laurent has toured and/or recorded with Dave Douglas, Slide Hampton, Luc de la Rochelière, Dave Liebman, Till Brönner, Sylvie Paquette, Richard Underhill, David Binney, Jojo Mayer, Carlos Del Junco, Bernard Primeau and represented Canada at the International Jazz Guitar Summit in Nice (MIDEM).

Michel DeQuevedo has been playing drums and percussion since he was a small child. Born in Mexico and now a resident of Toronto, Michel has toured in Italy, Chile, Mexico, Cuba, The United States and Canada with people like Grammy award winner, Julieta Venega, Random Order, Zoe Bentley and many more.

Jordan O'Connor
Bassist/Composer and co-founder of The Breath.com, Jordan O'Connor grew up in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, and for the past 13 years has been living and performing in Toronto with such musicians as Don Ross and Louis Simão . Jordan has been composing for a variety of ensembles as well as for film, most recently the upcoming feature “Ya, Whatever Girl” by writer/director Carolyn Hurren.