JJ CHARDEAU – Ombres And Lumières

L 2023

Ombres & Lumières

From Gallia and across the mainland, globe-trotting artist focuses on western fronts.

Subtitled “In Terra Cognita 2 – Europa 1: Occidentals” and picking up where the first installment of the “Magical Musical Man” rock opera left off, this part of Jean-Jacques Chardeau’s epic endeavor may seem to further fragment the Parisian’s planet-spanning travelogue, yet it zooms in on a particular part of a particular continent instead, painting much more coherent picture with stellar players weaving their bright threads into his artful canvas. Embroidered with the composer’s acoustic piano and grounded with John Van Eps’ electric ivories and orchestration, it’s an impressive – and frequently impressionistic – work which locates wonders, starting in JJ’s native country and stopping in Greece, even in the most-trodden places to depict various landscapes via largely instrumental pieces.

Still, there are proper songs on display, as signaled by belligerently frivolous opener “Donibane Lohitzue” that finds Chardeau groove over ever-shifting textures which involve snippets of oratorio and Hank Linderman’s invigorating licks and riffs before “Eire” introduces majestic tranquility shot through with Jerry Goodman’s multilayered violins and female vocalese which give way to energetic swirl without sacrificing serenity. But while “Iceland & Fire” sees the surge of dramatic strings and keyboards, John McFee’s exquisite guitar lace softening such passages, the magnificent “Scandinavia” swells with Grieg-like gloom and Jarresque shimmer until rock figures, driven by Doane Perry’s drums, shatter it all, and Jimmy Haun’s fretboard filigree is taken to the fore. Yet if the transparent “Over The Channel” shines a light on Eric Troyer and Jeddrah Leiterding’s mighty voices and Mark Andes’ muscular bass, “Belux Concerto” offers a chamber uplift and the elegance of waltz, and “Swing Heil” demonstrates pure Europop of the ’70s vintage, a styles-tripping potpourri that the time-tested rhythm section of Danny Seraphine and Jason Scheff will propel towards JJ-curated discotheque.

On the other end of this dynamic spectrum lies the massive “Tyrol Canon Snow Dance” which Pat Mastelotto’s thunder and lightning turn into a stormy experience, whereas “Lisbonne Is Dying” basks in a brass-lit ballad glory, and the cinematic “Reconquista” is ignited by Dave Gregory’s flamenco lines and John Helliwell’s sax. One may doubt that “Seborga” deserves a panoramic treatment, but its breezy development, drawing on Italo disco, should prove fascinating enough to justify the cut’s 11-minute drift, especially when it’s followed by the sirtaki-shaped “Edossa Fakelaki” whose bouzouki and percussion serve up infectious beat. Here’s a map of rare quality, making a journey across Old World a riveting extravaganza.


November 23, 2023

Category(s): Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *