The Left Side of the Moon
This is pianist and composer Chantale Gagné’s recording. It says so, right there on the cover. Yet it could easily be saxophonist Steve Wilson’s album, as Gagné unselfishly puts him out front while also providing ample space for drummer Lewis Nash and bassist Peter Washington to express themselves. On the track “In Time,” for example, Wilson’s alto is the first sound you hear. He states the melody, then weaves around it before Gagné stretches out. “Just a Dream” presents Wilson in the lead again, with Nash providing rhythmic counterpoint, before Gagné settles in for a solo spot. Even on tracks where the pianist opens the proceedings, such as the politely titled “After You,” Wilson typically takes the lead. The mix places him way out front, as well.
One exception, the opening “Mystère,” is the only saxless tune. Another is the suitelike title track, which opens with Gagné’s solo piano, before Wilson enters for some unison lines. The piece shifts tempos and moods throughout, Wilson’s searing soprano often honking and squealing emotively. When Gagné steps into the spotlight, her playing is heartfelt and engaging. On “Your Blues Is My Blues,” her right hand sprinkles a few flurries of notes, before her left-hand chords entice her right to follow suit. Eventually, Wilson adds some up-tempo blowing before ceding solos to Washington and Nash. Gagné’s compositions — she wrote all the selections, except the traditional French tune “À la Claire Fontaine” — plus her arrangements and generous spirit allow everyone a chance to shine. —Ross Boissoneau