Thursday, January 26, 2012

Benoit Delbecq & Francois Houle: Because She Hoped

Benoit Delbecq (piano)
Francois Houle (clarinet)
Because She Hoped (Songlines; 2011)

Because She Hoped is beautifully crafted, well delivering notes and patterns that are not just ethereal but are also astounding. This is the third collaboration between the Canadian/French duo, Delbecq and Houle. For me, this is the improvised equivalent of Pierre Fournier and Friedrich Gulda. While that classical duo performed miracles with the work of Beethoven, Delbecq and Houle manage this in the tradition of classic chamber music, but also with the swirling inspiration of minimalism and improvising composers of both jazz and classical.

On Because She Hoped, the material stands out with a unique and distinct set of principles that revolve around where will the music take you. "The Mystery Song" originally written by Duke Ellington is completely transformed into a minimalist masterpiece. The jovial aspects of the original are stripped to create a more intimate and slow journey that takes you down a path filled with unknown openings and closing. Delbecq's emotions never rise, even during the more uptempo parts midway through. Houle's chords tie things together softly making it feel less haunted than the title might suggest.

"Because She Hoped" is melodic and driven more by Houle's bold yet fluid lines. It's a clouded piece with jagged little structures slowly preening their way out. Houle has written a piece that provides a slow burn but a beautiful one resonates loudly. The duo also cover Steve Lacy's (a big influence on the musicians) "Cliches" which sounds very similar to the original but with little more playfulness. With "Ando," Delbecq and Houle close out the album on a more avant garde note. It's filled with abbreviated patterns and what must be some work on prepared piano by Delbecq. It's complex and expressive and closes out the Because She Hoped on a jubilant note. 

Benoit Delbecq and Francois Houle may be an unknown name to some readers but you really should check this duo out. Because She Hoped is an enchanting, original and vibrant work that demands your attention. 

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