FAME Review: Pascal Bokar - Guitar Balaphonics
Pascal Bokar - Guitar Balaphonics

Guitar Balaphonics

Pascal Bokar

Available from iTunes.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

If you for a second are expecting the sort of laidback strumming and Charlie Byrd-esque lead lines so common to this tropical style of jazz, nice as those employments are, you're in for a big surprise. Pascal Bokar possesses an uncanny ability to use pizzicato and quasi-pizzicato in lead runs rarely encountered on guitar except in Al DiMeola and scant others. Everyone and their brother can damp out chords (that's simpler 'n hell and constitutes half the attraction in chugga-chugga metal musics), but an incredibly refined sense of touch is necessary to play single notes, let alone flurries of them at such blinding speeds as Bokar and DiMeola have mastered.

Guitar Balaphonics—and try as I might, I could locate no definition for the latter term, though it's far from uncommon—is a presentation of classic jazz instrumentals, vocals, and a pair of originals by Bokar. The guy incoprorates a lot of old-school George Benson, Wes Montgomery, a bit of Jimmy Bruno, and so on, and swings constantly, breaking into fusionesque territories to a highly satisfying degree, never screaming through the speakers but breath-taking nonetheless. Volume isn't always a constant in such things, y'know, all you progboyz, headbangers, and noise rockerz.

Pascal assembled a very hip backing ensemble but special mention has to be made of singer Daria Niles dueting with him on the Duke's Solitude—and lord, lord, lord, Bokar can also brag of utilizing a fine set of pipes himself! I've no clue why he doesn't sing more on the release. Sure, there are a few patchy moments in his delivery, a confidence of delivery that needs a tad more practice, but the velvety encantations we hear indicate a Torme/Baker-ish frame of mind. A couple more cuts with his voice would've been very welcome indeed.

Ms. Niles, though—Wow! Puh-leeeeease: more of her! Much more, here or elsewhere, I don't care where, so long as we get those melodious refrains in the future. Listening to her stylings reminds me of why I wish Gladys Knight would sing a lot more blues and jazz, and thus, Guitar Balaphonics is a feast on many levels: Braziliana, meso-and-lower-Sud-Americana, swing, fusion, fine mellifluity, old CTI, and the best of earlier jazz, not Prime Era but what came after, the stuff that set the stage for modernism, and here all in one package.

Track List:

  • Lester Leaps In (Lester Young)
  • Bye Bye Blackbird (Henderson / Dixon)
  • Cherokee (Ray Noble)
  • Have You Met Ms. Jones (Rodgers / Hart)
  • Solitude (Duke Ellington)
  • Bag's Groove (Milt Jackson)
  • Massani Cisse (traditional)
  • Segou on the Djoliba (Pascal Bokar)
  • Song for Dizzy (Pascal Bokar)
  • Song for My Father (Horace Silver)

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2015, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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