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Jeff Denson/Romain Pilon/Brian Blade: Finding Light (Ridgeway)

A review of the trio's second album

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Jeff Denson/Romain Pilon/Brian Blade: Finding Light (Ridgeway)
The cover of Finding Light by Jenn Denson/Romain Pilon/Brian Blade

With 2019’s Between Two Worlds, bassist Jeff Denson introduced a remarkable trio featuring guitarist Romain Pilon and drummer Brian Blade. Live dates followed and the three later embarked on a fruitful tour in early 2020, delighting West Coast and Midwest audiences before capping the whole experience by filming a performance in Berkeley, California. Two years later, after being forced to reschedule their reunion on several occasions, they gathered again at Oakland’s 25th Street Recording—the same space where they birthed their collective debut—and captured this sophomore set.

Having traversed the darkness of the pandemic as individuals, these men reconnected as a band eager to find the light. So it should come as no great shock that hopefulness serves as a throughline for this album. Whether taking a Crescent City cruise in five on “Daily Jubilee of Dancing Herbie D.,” using urgency as a bonding agent for the title track, delivering zestful swing through “The Tipster,” or giving thanks for comforting prospects and breaks in the clouds with “Espoir,” the trio proves resolute in its embrace of optimism. Even when weighty topics surface—the uncertainty of the spring of 2020 embedded in “A Moment in Time,” the fragility of our planet painted in somewhat baleful fashion for “Terre”—a notable spirit of togetherness redirects the mind and ears toward more positive places.

Mirroring the programming choices for Between Two Worlds, the focus here is solely on originals from Denson and Pilon, respectively: The bassist contributes five (plus his improvised “Terre Intro”) and the guitarist gifts four. All are superb. In addition to the aforementioned numbers, there’s the funky “This Way Cooky,” pleasantly paced “Wishing Well,” and skittering and shimmering “Sixto.” With sounds both brilliant and beaming, the music truly reflects the nature of its creators.

Learn more about Finding Light on Amazon and Apple Music.


Dan Bilawsky

Dan Bilawsky has been involved in jazz journalism for 15 years. His work has appeared in JazzTimes, JAZZed, and All About Jazz, among other outlets. In addition, he’s penned liner notes for artists on Red, Capri, HighNote/Savant, Ropeadope, and other respected imprints. A band director with 20 years of teaching experience, he holds degrees in music from Indiana University, the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, and Five Towns College.