Geannine Reid, All About Jazz

Guitarist Steve Bilodeau announces his third album to date, The Sun Though the Rain. The project is a collection of spontaneous improvisations spanning a wide range of sonic landscapes: from the tranquil and ethereal, to the chaotic and the raucous. Highlighting saxophonist Richard Garcia and drummer Dor Herskovits with Bilodeau’s guitar sonorities, the trio complements each other and with intense listening, explore many unexpected turns, wonders, and musical journeys along the way.

Bilodeau, Garcia and Herskovits met each other at the New England Conservatory in 2013, while they were each pursuing their Master’s degrees. Immediately Bilodeau recognized the communication between them as an opportunity to try something that he had been wanting to try for a while, but needed special allies to do so; his idea was to compose and perform with a trio, with no bass. Bilodeau’s goal was to create an album of total improvisation and therefore decided to present a record full of unpredictability and surprises. Bilodeau explains, “Improvisation is a microcosm of life, in the sense that nobody can predict what will happen, no matter how much they want to. To me this record feels a lot like how 2016 felt to me.” The result is The Sun Though the Rain, which contains nine tracks performed by the trio.

“Veiled Reflections” starts with Garcia’s warm saxophone filling the space with Bilodeau joining soon after. The two continue in the duet conversation, each listening and building upon one another’s phrases. Bilodeau’s use of sampling, using a delay pedal is very effective throughout the project and on this tune in particular, he utilizes it to full effect. By creating a looping ostinato that is played by the pedal, Bilodeau adds a second layer to the composition, building the story and making the compositional palate larger. The two are in no hurry, both are able to relax and let the moment unfold, listening, waiting for the moment of inspiration. Neither musician takes on a role of excessive note playing, instead, both develop musical colors and emotions. It is interesting how Garcia seamlessly blends into the harmonic movement and color scheme that Bilodeau creates, as a co-harmonist.

“In the Midst” begins with Herskovits setting the rhythmic pallet, a tribal beat that is both ancient and modern. Herskovits’ drum playing is melodic and both Bilodeau and Garcia take his melodic approach and develop a harmonic commentary that is some of the most tonal or key oriented playing of the session. Even though it is completely improvised, the trio gives the illusion of form by changing feels and revisiting various musical motifs. The musicians complement each other brilliantly, which allows each to explore the musical moment in a more textural way instead of a technical one. Bilodeau explains his thoughts about his playing, “I wanted to approach the guitar like a producer, by choosing sounds and layers instead of just notes and chords, and I think the way Richard and I listen to and play off one another on this track is really intuitive and natural.”

The success of The Sun Though the Rain is the trio’s ability to gradually build the music, they follow the music and build up themes and harmonic colors as time passes. Each uses a less is more approach to create a complex music web, sometimes becoming more obscure and noisy in trajectory, and at times, becoming introspectively simple and quiet. Do not think you have it figured out though, every time you think it’s a purgation of noise, the trio brings it into focus and comes back to another audible gesture of pure musical freedom victory. Bilodeau, Garcia and Herskovits follow parallel lines conjuring something new and unexpected in the purest time of all, in the moment. This is the core of The Sun Though the Rain a collective improvisational success.

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