May 18, 2024

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CD review: Brian Blade, Romain Pilon, Jeff Denson – Finding Light 2022: Video, CD cover

Finding Light is the second album for Jeff Denson (bass), Romain Pilon (guitar), and Brian Blade (drums).

The trio met while attending Berklee College of Music and have had unique chemistry ever since. Their second release presents ten tracks consisting of original compositions by Denson or Pilon. Denson provides six pieces, and Pilon contributes the remaining four. The music theme celebrates the ability to perform together after the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Daily Jubilee of Dancing Herbie D” opens Finding Light with a five/four funky groove from the pen of Denson. Denson’s bass is woody and fills the bottom with rich sonorities as he merges with Blade’s ever-creative drumming. Pilon is from the John Schofield lineage of sound and solo concepts. His mix of blues in his playing is enjoyable and adds to its expressive nature. His use of string bending is also very meaningful. The music has a satisfying arc as the three communicate to perform a stunning opening selection.

“The Tipster” from Denson offers a catchy melody with a hard-swinging solo section. Blade’s drumming is buoyant as Pilon builds each phrase in register and activity. Denson follows Pilon’s harmonic explorations effortlessly as he forms the link between Blade and Pilon. Denson’s solo is ringing in its harmonic clarity and rhythmic percussion.

Finding Light offers a wide range of feels, textures, and improvisation vehicles. Denson’s and Pilon’s compositional styles a similar enough to form a cohesive whole but varied enough to give variety to the album. The trio is very interactive, which leads to a rewarding deep listening experience and will withstand many repeated listens.

Now in his mid-40s, Denson is a respected San Francisco educator and stand-up bassist, with an enviable CV as sideman and bandleader. While Brian Blade has had an even more storied career in such capacities, French guitarist Romain Pilon may be less well-known (despite the press release quoting Jazzwise in praise of him).

Responsible, along with Denson, for the attractive original material on their second trio album, Pilon is an all-encompassing stylist capable of surprising (but not particularly flamboyant) single-note lines and unexpected chordings that don’t imitate one predecessor yet sound very much in the contemporary mainstream of adventurous and inventive guitar.

Given the technical excellence of all concerned, it’s pleasing to report that this 10-track recital is not restricted to one mood and there’s a variety of time-signatures involved throughout – even involving some relatively “free” improv on ‘Wishing Well’. The fact that no fewer than three pieces are inspired by family pets – two dogs and a cat, the 5/4 tune dedicated to Denson’s schnauzer being also released as a single – shouldn’t be held against the players, since this music would be equally captivating without knowing the background.

1 Daily jubilee of dancing herbie d.
2 Finding light
3 This way cooky
4 A moment in time
5 Wishing well
6 The tipster
7 Terre intro
8 Terre
9 Espoir
10 Sixto


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