Quebec-born pianist and composer Yves Léveillé’s cleverly titled Essences Des Bois plays very much like a jazz suite for woodwinds. “Bois,” woods or forest, refers to both the ensemble instrumentation—a septet featuring flutes, saxophones, clarinets, oboes, and English horn, and the idyllic sylvan themes of much of the music. Layered over Léveillé’s piano, the woodwinds evoke a mellow natural beauty. This is not nature “red in tooth and claw.” This is nature at its healing, its harmonious best revealed in through the piece’s jazz harmonies.
Whether conceived of as a unified composition in eight movements or as eight separate and individual compositions, Essences Des Bois has a coherence and unity that one expects from a larger work. True, each individual title might not suggest that unity—“Jonglerie,” French for Juggling—the soundscape is nonetheless quite consistent. On the other hand titles like “Forêt” (forest) and “Sur La Passerelle” (on the footbridge) have clear pastoral denotations. If nothing else, the whole stands as a programmatic exploration of the tones and colors of the woodwinds relative to the colors of the woods regardless of the individual title of any given piece.
Woodwind highlights include the flute solo work of François Richard on the Latin rhythms of “Ascendant” and Roberto Murray’s solo saxophone passages in “Jonglerie” and “Distance.” The ensemble work including Simon Aldrich on clarinets and Marjorie Tremblay on oboe and English horn is spot on. Adrian Vedady plays acoustic bass, Alain Bastien is on drums, and towering over all are the exquisite piano stylings of the composer. From the first notes of the somewhat spacey “Perceptible” which opens the album, Léveillé’s vision is the dominant force. He sets the tone and the rest of the ensemble makes it work. The quirky sonorities of “Monarque” and “En Marche” round out the album.
All in all, Essences Des Bois is an album of contemporary mainstream jazz that offers a lot of very fine listening.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00L0EGA1I]