Grégoire Maret, Romain Collin with Bill Frisell – Americana
(ACT Music 9049-2. CD review by Peter Bacon)
What’s this? Brothers In Arms? Clearly not a bunch of British jazzers, then. At the risk of a sweeping generalisation, there is far too much musical snobbery in this land for a Brit to ever consider covering a Dire Straits tune.
On the European mainland and across the pond, minds are more open. The Swiss-born harmonica player and French-born pianist, though both now base themselves in New York, are not the first artists on this label to have embraced the folk music of America; the ”Finn from Berlin”, guitarist Kalle Kalima gave us the right-on-target High Noon in 2016, which included Ghost Riders In The Sky among other cowboy classics.
Maret and Collin, with some expert guitar and banjo help from Bill Frisell and a bit of drumming from Clarence Penn, have chosen a neat mix of originals and covers, and clearly sound right at home in Frisell’s Small Town or in the company of Jimmy Webb’s lineman from Wichita.
It’s no surprise how easily the harmonica adapts to the Americana vibe, and Frisell is a walking history book as well as an innovator in this field, but Collin too immerses himself in the melodies and attitude showing little temptation to get all fancy-jazzy with the harmonies.
The result is a clear mountain river of an album – no frills or pretensions to be heard.
Maret and Collin show themselves as happy to write Americana as to play it. The former’s Back Home and the latter’s San Luis Obispo fit in a treat. And Frisell’s electric guitar and Collin’s piano dance nicely around each other without ever standing on each other’s toes.
Occasional touches of pump organ and Moog from Collin, and the almost subliminal drumming of Penn add the appropriate grand, big sky landscape when needed. Bon Iver’s Re: Stacks has those lovely background looping textures from Frisell. Maret’s tune The Sail is a particular beauty, and gives Collin and the composer some space to stretch out in lyrical mood before returning to the suitably catchy, folk-like melody.
And Brothers In Arms acts as the perfect scene-setter for the album: a strong melody played slowly, reflective in mood, slightly careworn but with a stately gait.
Americana is released today.