For those not in the know, Montreal is a hot bed of jazz talent, and Effendi Records has some of the city’s most distinctive new artists. Yannick Rieu is a saxophonist who has moved up through the Montreal jazz scene since the mid 1980s and now divides his time between there and Paris.
The music presented on Little Zab 2 is extremely lyrical, showing a depth of maturity in Rieu’s compositions. A song like "Marc M." is built upon a lilting groove with the sax floating on top. Rieu has a full tone on tenor sax without the hard edge some players today favor. He reminds me at times of Sonny Rollins in his more introspective moments. Rieu also has the gift for playing few notes, yet getting the most out of them, stretching his phrasing and pulling subtle nuances out of the notes.
"Pour Trenet" is a nice little swing tune propelled by drummer Philippe Soirat’s brushes. His deft touch keeps things moving ahead while Rieu and guitarist Sylvain Provost present the melody, then spin off solos around it. "Duo" is a short sax/drums outing that while improvised, retains a sense of lyricism. "Groove 2" is a slow moving funk groove that the players stretch and compress, giving it a sense of tension and release. "Groove 6" is an angular piece that sees the band working through some taut unison phrases. Bassist Frederic Alarie's long tones contrast with drummer Soirat’s quick pulse.
Yannick Rieu is a saxophonist to watch. Both his composing and playing are assured, and his style very much his own. Check this CD out if you find it.