Michel F. Côté

(juste) Claudette
Ambiance Magnetique AM 168

Drummer, composer and trickster, Michel F Côté’s makes CDs that aren’t what they appear on first glance. Aided here, for instance, by guitarist Bernard Falaise, bassist Alexandre St-Onge and organist Jesse Levine, the Montreal-based drummer would seem to have created another homage to those 1960s Prestige and Blue Note organ combos with (juste) Claudette. Instead Côté who also composes for theatre and film has created a skewed POMO jam band romp that cuts the funk with elements of rock, jazz-improv and so-called serious music.

Tellingly, one of the CD’s “ballads” is based on Morton Feldman’s String Quartet (II), recast with swelling ecclesiastical organ patterning and outer-space-like chiming guitar fills – not exactly Jimmy Smith material. Other tunes find Levine triggering jerky, crackles, as Côté fragments the steady beat and Falaise rubs up and down his guitar neck for effect, after an episode of blindingly speedy distorted runs.

Together Côté, Falaise and St-Onge recorded as the fusion-oriented Klaxon Gueule band and their collective regard for the backbeat – not to mention the bassist’s pedal point accompaniment – positions most of the 13 tracks in foot-patting territory. Listen closely however and micro-tonal slurred fingering from the guitarist and irregular pulses from the drummer enliven the tunes. Levine’s étude-like agitated spluttering riffs add another layer of sound to the performances; there are even times when he seems to be playing call-and-response with himself.

With steady andante rhythms linked to unexpected staccato interludes, the performances on the CD easily seduce. If the six two-minutes-or-less numbers were dropped and the others beefed up however, soloists would have more room for improvising.

— Ken Waxman

— For CODA Issue 337