Yves Léveillé's Essences des Bois is being issued on the same label, Effendi Records, as Vincent Gagnon's Tome III - Errances (here) and, though it's of a much more classically informed vein sieved through 60s chamber jazz, the CD's nonetheless quite chockablock with Gagnon's more brow-furrowing oeuvre, all of it the sort of high level work heard in everything the competing Zoho label puts forth. Léveillé, like Gagnon, is a pianist but with a more luminescent hand. Where Gagnon limns his work in ebony shades and unhedging realism, abstract as they can get, Léveillé is full of hope and light, very much like what only intermittently issued after Paul Winter's still gaspingly beautiful work with the nascent Oregon back in the early 70s…and I think we can all agree that Oregon itself has never been surpassed.
Make no mistake: I criticize neither Léveillé nor Gagnon at all in saying these things. In fact, I love dark musics more than light, but when the more positive are presented as alluringly as this, the genre gains ever newer respectability, increases distance from the too often cloying sophomoric New Age genre, and re-examines how necessary superbly delineated positivity is to the spirit. Not unsurprisingly, it was ensembles like Oregon, Between, Long Hello, and others which inadvertently launched the frequently lamentable New Age, and it's composers like Léveillé who are re-instituting riveting elder values back into the work while evolving all stages of provenance.
Such is poetically evidenced in Sur la Passerelle, eight minutes of sheer beauty within a courtly framework, taking all and sundry out from dank castle walls and into effulgent arbors, much as Towner & Co. did. Then there's the riveting, the breathtaking, En Marche. Léveillé favors a subtle seriality in his lines and imbues significant portions of his compositions likewise, oft well shrouded in extremely fetching chases, rambles, promenades, and florid ornamentalia. Many will be consumed by the Romanticism and Impressionism in his very ordered but highly novo cuts, but I'm telling you there's a good deal of neoclassicalism as well. You just have to be familiar with Penderecki, Takemitsu, and others to understand it amid the pastoralities, too well integrated to be obvious.
These elements were never far from Oregon's work either, but Léveillé expands the murals significantly. His charts for the horns (saxes, flutes, oboe, English horn, clarinets) are exquisite, baroquely crossed with airy modernities, treading a much free-er mid-ground, unfettered, happy, thoughtful. But I have one last comment in the form of a question: What in hell are they feeding people up there in the North 40??? There's so much incredible music in all genres issuing from Canada that I'm at a loss to explain how we here in the lower 48 aren't keeping up, but we often aren't, and this is just one proof. I guess it comes down to the old adage never to get overconfident. There's always someone else waiting to eat one's dinner if one looks away a bit too long.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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