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REVIEW: Jeff Denson - Finding Light & Between the Lines with Romain Pilon, Brian Blade

By Jeff Cebulski

For me, a notable discovery during the time-to-hide-in-my-music-room pandemic years were two trio albums led by the bassist Jeff Denson, featuring the guitarist Romain Pilon and the redoubtable drum wizard Brian Blade. My first impression was that if Blade liked playing with these guys, they must be good.


And indeed they are. The two albums are stylistically interesting enough to provide a couple hours of cool listening. Pilon, from France, has gained attention after a noted education at Berklee. He has released albums in Europe and the U.S. and has a following on You Tube. This trio feeds on the versatility of its components, especially with the backing of Blade, who gladly melds with whomever he agrees to play with.


The most recent album, Finding Light, begins with a jumping display of these talents on “Daily Jubilee of Dancing Herbie D.” A robust beat from Denson is aptly matched by Blade, leading to nifty phrasing from Pilon, whose travels up and down the fret board lights up the proceedings. The title cut is softer, with a Latin touch. Here Denson, on double bass, gets his chance to prove his mettle. The funky “This Way Cooky” demonstrates Pilon’s sonic versatility; “A Moment in Time” is led by a Blade’s abstract excursion into a tone poem.


And so on. With material written independently by Denson and Pilon, the stylistic/thematic range of this album is a crucial element in its ability to engage the active listener, if Pilon’s breadth of talent is not quite enough.



The preceding album, Between Two Worlds, offers its own bevy of pleasure, even with a more homogenous repertoire of style. Here, Pilon plays closer to Pat Metheny’s tone throughout, but the evident comfortability of the players wins over the proceedings. Listen to Blade’s dexterous opening to “Listen Up,” for example, and how his accompanying pair respond in kind.


There are always discoveries to be had in jazz, and guitar band fans can have plenty of them, including this trio, in this 21st Century moment.


Ridgeway Records - 2022 & 2019

Finding Light: Purchase Here


Between Two Worlds: Purchase Here


Personnel:

Jeff Denson, double bass

Romain Pilon, guitar

Brian Blade, drums

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