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Pee Wee et moi

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Album Review

Simply put, this is Robert Marcel Lepage at his best: witty, funny, acrobatic, and jazzy. Pee Wee et Moi signals a return to the creative heights of La Traversée de la Mémoire Morte, Adieu Leonardo!, and Les Clarinettes Ont-Elles un Escalier de Secours? The "Pee Wee" in question is clarinetist and bandleader Pee Wee Russell. Here, Lepage pays tribute to the man in his very own special way: by assembling a seven-piece clarinet section playing Lepage originals written as Russell pastiches. The results are simply wonderful, pairing up Russell's swing and idiosyncrasies with Lepage's bouncy, let's-break-the-rules-and-have-fun-while-doing-so style. His arrangements for the clarinet section are lush and inventive, with plenty of group playing and a judiciously small number of solos (it would have been nice to know who plays them, though). Besides Lepage, Guillaume Bourque, Jean-Sébastien Leblanc, André Moisan, Pierre-Emmanuel Poizat, Richard Simas, and the Vancouver jazz mainstay François Houle handle the clarinets. Lepage did a wonderful job at reinventing Russell's style and reincarnating the master's spirit into his own brand of music, but Pee Wee et Moi is also noteworthy for reasons slightly beyond Lepage: it marks guitarist René Lussier's first appearance on an Ambiances Magnétiques recording since his late-'90s fallout with the label. And that is another reason to rejoice! Lussier's wacky off-the-wall playing (often sounding like the missing link between Fred Frith and Eugene Chadbourne) is heavily featured throughout the album. Bassist Normand Guilbeault and drummer Pierre Tanguay round up the impressive formation. The set list consists of 12 Lepage originals bookended by two Russell covers, "Pee Wee's Blues" and "Muskagee Blues." The album is released in Ambiances Magnétiques' Jazz series, but in spirit, it sounds closer to the label's vintage musique actuelle sound of the '80s and '90s than any other release in that series. A late-2005 must-have. ~ François Couture, Rovi

Pee Wee et moi, Robert Marcel Lepage
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