Tom Hayes 28-Aug-2006 Sous un Arbre / Live a Montreux

Aquarelle were a late 1970s band based in Quebec, who released two wonderful jazz influenced rock albums. These aren’t garden variety fusion albums, but rather deeper works where a strong sense of melody pervades. And there’s a definite cross pollination of sound with other Quebec based groups, such as the Polydor era of Maneige, or Contraction, especially at the time of their first album. Violin, piano, flute, saxophone and wordless female voice provide the distinctive ingredients whilst electric/acoustic guitar and a lively rhythm section solidify the base components. On “Sous un Arbre”, the mood is light, with emphasis on melody, rather than the more typical technical chops contest. The record has a positive aura, a special something that adds light to the room. For their second album Aquarelle took the unusual step, at such an early stage, of doing a live album though most of the material is entirely original (exception is the closer, which is a nine minute extended version of the opening track from the debut). Throughout, the compositional style is similar, except there are obvious plays to appease the jazz crowd, perhaps to be expected at a famous jazz festival. For example there’s the inclusion of electric piano, more soloing (especially saxophone), the addition of some funk (which was popular then), less female voice, and the electric bass playing has more of a “warm” sound as opposed to the more direct rock appoach of the debut. All of these are slight detractions from the special sound of the first album, and thus rates slightly less, but scores a little better with traditional fusion fans.

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