Jason Vieaux, Julien Labro - Infusion (Azica Records)
If you love your French-press coffee in the morning, or your brewed afternoon tea, you're partaking in the most common type of infusion.
Here's another form of "infusion" you can enjoy: it's a blend of the classical, jazz, pop, and world music found on the latest recording from guitarist Jason Vieaux and accordionist Julien Labro. Jason Vieaux has been teaching at the Cleveland Institute for more than 20 years. That's given him plenty of time to check out Nighttown, a local jazz club. That's where he first met Julian Labro. "I just never really heard an accordion played within jazz context quite like this," Jason recalls. "I mean, he was building these kind of architectural solos and kind of whipping the crowd into a frenzy."
Then Jason asked Julien if he'd be willing to perform Piazzolla's Concerto for Guitar and Bandoneon. Jason says that marked the beginning of a thrilling collaboration. "This is a thing that really indulges a part of my musical personality that I wouldn't normally get to perform or express," he says. "And the improvisational nature of that is really what allows it and the fact that these arrangements are kind of living breathing things and they can change from concert to concert."
Jason says this concept of Infusion means their putting their own stamp on each piece. "But 'infusion,' you know, takes on a lot of different meanings of the way that Julien infuses the Gnattali arrangement with actual quotes from [Brazilian composer] Pixinguinha, who the first movement is dedicated to, or Ernesto Nazareth, who the second movement is dedicated to," Jason explains. "That arrangement is entirely from Julien's imagination … not unlike a big-band era type of thing."
The recording opens with Julien's arrangement of Leo Brouwer's "Tres Danzas Concertantes" written for guitar and orchestra. Julien and Jason each take the lead and the accompaniment roles. "I like to refer to it more as a reduction as opposed to an arrangement," Julien says, "because I really stayed close to the score as far as I took the orchestral score and really looked through what was happening texturally and rhythmically with the orchestra, and I try to do justice to it on providing a great backdrop for Jason to play the solo part, because it's very interesting compositionally."
Julien also gets inside the score of a piece by the composer who brought him together with Jason: Astor Piazzolla. "What we decided to do, if we were going to present this on the record, we thought we just put a stamp on it by providing some sort of our own take," Julien says. "Inside that arrangement is a clear quote of Bob Marley: 'Could you be could you be love …' And then Jason, during his solo, takes it to places such as Beyoncé and the NBA theme. And this is kind of, like, off the cuff."
Jason says inspiration comes from just about anywhere. In 2012, while watching the presidential debates, suddenly the '80s pop tune "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" by Tears for Fears popped into his head. He created an arrangement where he played the role of the backup singers, and Julien could take the lead.
Julien gets to play the role of lead singer Roland Orzabal, and he took off on the melody. "It's fun working with people like Jason," Julien says. "They have the flexibility and the versatility. It's not every classical player who one minute can just solo and play you the most intense avant-garde classical-guitar riff ever written. It's like it's a permanent exchange of ideas, and when you find the right artist to collaborate with, the door is wide open."
By leaving the door open, it blurs the lines between classical, jazz, pop and world music, and it's heard on a new recording called Infusion with guitarist Jason Vieaux and accordionist Julien Labro.
ResourcesJason Vieaux - official site
Julien Labro - official site