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Jeremy Udden/Nicolas Moreaux: Belleville Project

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When American saxophonist-composer Jeremy Udden crossed paths with French bassist Nicolas Moreaux in Paris, two musical soulmates found one another. Udden’s groups Plainville and Folk Art have made jazz music that utilizes non-jazz styles (mostly Americana and rock), a strategy shared by Moreaux. The bassist’s “Jeremy” is a two-chord vamp with the melodic swoop of Burt Bacharach. Udden’s “Nico” starts out like a country-folk song, becoming more expansive along the way. Both excel at making simplicity sound enthralling with the way they employ instrumentation.

Belleville Project, by another stroke of fate, was funded through a grant from the French American Cultural Exchange and Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation. While heavily steeped in folk forms, it also incorporates other styles and has a keen sense of brevity. Udden’s alto sax shares space with Robert Stillman’s tenor, and both prefer to color the scenery rather than chew it up. Guitarist Pierre Perchaud doubles on banjo, which evokes both country music and Gypsy jazz. Drummer RJ Miller also bridges styles, in his case a sturdy swing and the steady simplicity of Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason.

After the album begins with a twang, the title track forces the band into rubato jazz territory, where Miller and Moreaux get to stretch out a little more. “Epilogue,” written by Stillman, goes the opposite route, sounding like a Charlie Haden tune, slowly embellishing a simple melody. “Healing Process,” one of two songs with a runtime under two minutes, serves as Moreaux’s tribute to rockers Dinosaur Jr. That might sound like a ridiculous homage for a jazz record, but the group pulls it off gracefully, and leaves the listener wanting more.

Originally Published