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Remy Le Boeuf: Light as a Word (Le Boeuf)

A review of the alto saxophonist's debut album as a leader

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Remy Le Boeuf, Light as a Word
The cover of Light as a Word by Remy Le Boeuf

For Remy Le Boeuf’s debut as a leader, after four well-received recordings with identical twin brother Pascal, the alto saxophonist fronts a tight-knit ensemble for a set of originals that are uniformly resonant and appealingly rangy. The group comfortably occupies diverse terrain: the soaring melodies, flickering rhythms, and vaguely Americana-ish strains of “Mirrors in Your Eyes” as well as the delicacy of “Union,” a ballad penned for his sister’s wedding.

Le Boeuf’s explorations are ably abetted by second saxophonist Walter Smith III on tenor, a dynamic rhythm section—regular collaborators Matt Brewer on bass and Peter Kronreif on drums, plus pianist Aaron Parks—and, on two tracks, guitarist Charles Altura. The latter shines particularly with a bracing extended improvisation on “Imperfect Paradise,” a color-shifting fusion piece undergirded by Fender Rhodes.

Miniatures, like the gorgeous unaccompanied alto pieces “Bloom” and “Union Intro” and the solo-piano tune “Vista Hermosa Intro,” abut compositions that are expansive and feel almost cinematic. The ambling, then explosive “The Melancholy Architecture of Storms,” written with poet Sara Pirkle Hughes, is driven by cross-cutting sax lines, while “Vista Hermosa (for Jon and Brian),” inspired by Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band, rises and falls on surging and receding horns as it glides forward, making room for searching, melodic solos by Parks and the saxophonists. The title track, similarly evocative and fueled by understated bolero rhythms, offers more well-used solo space.

A kind of lightness, a musical gracefulness and openness, infuses much of the music on Light as a Word. But artistic intensity is never far away.

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Philip Booth

Philip Booth is a longtime arts journalist and bass player based in Florida. Formerly the pop music critic for the Tampa Tribune, he has contributed to many national publications, recently including the Washington PostJazziz, and Relix. His byline also has appeared in DownBeat, Bass Player, Billboard, Variety, Spin, Rolling Stone, and several academic journals. Sharkskin, the second album from his long-running band, Acme Jazz Garage, has aired on radio stations across the U.S.