CD review: Sylvain Leroux’s music of “French Creole…Creoles of color”.

Artist: Sylvain Leroux
Title: Quatuor Creole
Label: Engine Rec
Genre: world/jazz
Review by Leo Volf

Sylvain Leroux‘s debut recording Quatuor Creole might not necessarily be groundbreaking or earth shattering, but at times is quite pleasant. The music is a mix of two New Orleans’ cultures: the “French Creole” and “Creoles of color”. While one can nitpick and pin point exactly where one can hear each particular influence, that does not seem to be Leroux’s prerogative. The album and this cultural fusion manage to create its own kind texture, one that is predominantly jovial. With that being said, there is still enough variety throughout the recording, mostly due to the ensemble’s diverse instrumentation, to keep the listener engaged for the full duration.

The ensemble consists of Leroux playing an assortment of Western and World instruments (tambin, flute, alto sax, khaen, donzon ngoni), Karl Berger on the piano and vibraphone, Sego Decius on percussion and congas, and Matt Pavolka playing bass. A special note should be made of Karl Berger’s presence on this particular recording. Not only is he a wonderful pianist, vibraphonist, and Leroux’s teacher of over 30 years, he is a pioneer in the world of jazz pedagogy. He is known for his partnership with Ornette Coleman in the development of the Creative Music Studio and his early involvement in world music. While Berger’s mere involvement in this project creates an aura of validation, his actual playing is a main reason of what makes this recording very delightful.

There are several highlights through out Quatuor Creole. The constant contrast between the western and world influence is always at the heart of the matter. This is best exemplified by Leroux’s constant switching between the Tambin flute and your everyday western flute. The most ambitious work on the album is “Fantaisie Creole”. The piece starts off as a mournful fugue and turns into and ends with a very cheerful groove. If there is criticism to be made, it is the decision to include two of the “jazzier” type tracks: “Monk in Paradise” and “MIH”. The alto saxophone of “Monk in Paradise” and the swing of “MIH” seem out of context and almost seem like they were forced on to the album just to stay there is a definitive “jazz influence”. That aside, Quatuor Creole is a very well put together and executed piece of World Music.