Loïs Le Van is friends with the highly impressive Nicki Schrire, and it's not hard to see why. Both demonstrate not only a very nuanced approach to jazz vocals but dwell within an instrumental milieu ushering in many many elements, first becoming oft chambery or ECM austere, then gently coastal Bahia Brazilian, then baroque by way of Oregon or some of Kevin Eubanks' more environmental work. Appropriately, The Other Side is packaged in beautifully Spartan fashion…with just a touch of the offbeat and humorous (in the typeface no less; talk about subtle!).
Interestingly, Le Van embodies a combination of Kenny Rankin, Astrud Gilberto, Michael Franks, Gregorian cantor, a pensive human flugelhorn, and then an array of muted horns (English, French, etc., maybe even oboe), simultaneously doleful while bright with hope. Prophets and Sons is intriguingly Michael Mantleresque with a bit of one of Mike's favorite go-to's: Robert Wyatt, to this day a criminally overlooked musician/singer. Loïs' singing here becomes a rising and falling of glowing tones which you can practically envision vibrating on the staves of the musical page. His ensemble back-up is ethereally restrained, delicate, Sandrine Marchetti particularly cogent on piano, all striking the kind of timbre Tomasz Stanko's groups adopted in his quietly picturesque work.
Here's what may be most intriguing, though: the lyrics for all but two songs are by Francois Vaiana while Le Van penned the music for all but three; thus, the gent's truly a jazz cat through and through, but in lineage with jazze moderne. Then there's another surprise: a cover of The Alan Parson Project's Old and Wise translated almost out of recognition but carrying a unique French larksong bending the cut back into itself, especially in the refrains…just before falling beautifully apart at the terminus, echoes of Keith Tippett's Centipede neojazz floating back from lost decades. Y'know…there are days when, despite all the truly great music I'm sent, I get a little tired, just a touch jaded, all critics do, and then I receive a disc like The Other Side and wake up, thinking "Yeah, NOW I remember why I love this gig!"
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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