Greenhouse Ensemble ~ Rez-de-chaussée

Rez-de-chaussée is the rare jazz album to appear on our pages, its appeal so immediate that we became enamored.  This is the first album for the Montréal-based sextet Greenhouse Ensemble, filmed below performing, true to form, in a greenhouse.  Akin to many Montréal bands, the ensemble falls into one category but crosses over into others, displaying a fluidity of timbre; in “Introduction,” the jazz aspects are almost completely concealed, the tone more like modern composition.  Violin and trumpet take center stage, establishing a peaceful base level for an album whose name is translated ground floor.

As “Introduction” segues into “Beyond me,” the other performers show their stuff, especially Roxane Reddy, whose wordless voice yields the ensemble’s signature sound.  This being said, “Beyond me” is the guitarist’s track to rule, an extended solo both confident and smooth.  Later in the album, Reddy gives voice to the guitarist’s words, temporarily separated from his loved one: I, without you, will wait for winter … the cold will tell me about us, and soon I’ll come back to you.  “The Cost of Lies” further demonstrates the ensemble’s teamwork, as the track begins with piano, which draws back for voice, which itself draws back for bass, which then cedes space to percussion and more piano.  The slow, languid pace of the mid-section allows for greater dynamic contrast as the players return in full force.  Reddy seems to be closing the piece, until a final hit of drums makes the declarative statement.  “Medina” offers a triumphant sequence of violin and percussion at its center, but even this morphs gently into trumpet and voice.  The concluding brass line is particularly sweet, a melody that spirals into silence.

Greenhouse Ensemble calls Rez-de-chaussée “a warm place where you can leaf through a book with a cup of coffee, but also receive friends with a glass of wine.”  We love this description; it’s very jazz like, but it’s also accurate.  The music feels equally comfortable caffeinated or lounging, alternating between nervous energy and peaceful reflection, both within tracks and across the set.  In the fifth and sixth minutes of “Lucioles” (“Fireflies”), the ensemble even touches on post-rock, a staple of the Montréal circuit but still a timbre we were surprised to encounter.  The septet’s flexibility should serve them well, as disparate audiences will find their tastes intersecting here.  (Richard Allen)

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