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Jazz - Released April 24, 2020 | ACT Music

Hi-Res Booklet
Swiss-born harmonica player and composer Grégoire Maret is based in New York, and a first-call sideman and collaborator for a wide range of musicians including Pat Metheny, Elton John, Meshell Ndegeocello, Terri Lynne Carrington, and Marcus Miller. French-born pianist Romain Collin attended Boston's Berklee College of Music and stayed. He leads his own trio and plays duo dates with Maret. Guitarist Bill Frisell needs no introduction; he is the aesthetic anchor here as well as the date's supreme colorist. Americana is a love letter from two immigrants to their adopted home. For Maret, that's doubly true: his mother is from Harlem. The program contains original compositions by all three men as well as three covers. The opener is a reading of Mark Knopfler's "Brothers in Arms," and delivers the set's initial surprise: It's played by Maret and Collin. The two ACT labelmates perform this paean of affirmation and commitment as quietly and gently as a lullaby. Frisell's "Small Town" reprises the roots aesthetic the guitarist showcased on albums such as Nashville (1997) and Disfarmer (2009). Initiated in Maret's high-middle register, its melody recalls the music of the Civil War, underscored by the guitarist's use of a banjo alongside his electric six-string. Collin's chord voicings add color, texture, and nuance, drawing the melody's emotion into the open. While the tune's structure is simple, the canny, sensitive interplay is not. Collin's "San Luis Obispo" is a straight-up country tune and he uses an upright piano. Frisell states the melody before winding it out with slippery, single-string statements and impressionistic chord voicings before handing it off to Maret, who takes over and interacts with Collin. The harmonicist's "Back Home" is initiated by Collin with a cascading single-note pattern embellished by fragmentary chords. Maret's lovely yet intensely lonesome chromaticism never plays extra notes; he allows them full voice as guest Clarence Penn's brushed snare adds emphasis. The reading of Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman" begins with an airy statement from Frisell before Maret claims the melody atop Collin's gospel-inflected chords. Frisell strums an acoustic underneath them and embellishes with his Telecaster. All three men alternate in offering small improvisations on the changes and lyric to quietly stunning effect. The set's longest number is a cover of Justin Vernon's "Re: Stacks"; its original version appeared on Bon Iver's stripped-to-the-bone debut For Emma, Forever Ago. Acoustic and electric guitars frame the margins of Collin's gentle yet interrogative piano pulse as Maret makes the lyric melody breathe with long doubled notes. Its movement is leisurely with ghostly reverbed piano hovering around Frisell's strummed changes and single-string lines. The sonic abstractions offered by Collin's Moog Taurus and pump organ continue with the harmonica as a nearly ambient interlude that bleeds over into their joint improvisation "Still." Americana is imbued with warmth and tenderness throughout. It's an endearing portrait of the intimate side of American life. These songs echo collective and individual memories as well as idiosyncratic sense impressions of those that are hoped for. © Thom Jurek /TiVo