A gentle vocal utters sweet French verses to us against a slowly blossoming melody from a nearby guitar, its strings easily as evocative as any single lyric ever could be – if not a bit more so, when it counts the most – as the elegant “Roses De Picardie” begins to play, but as is the case with all eleven of the songs found on Tatiana Eva-Marie and Michael Valeanu’s Bonjour Tristesse, this track is both indebted to instrumental prowess as it is the poeticism of modern jazz arranging at its finest. Simply put, between Eva-Marie’s velvety voice and Valeanu’s incredible fretwork, it’s easy to understand why Bonjour Tristesse is getting the warm reception from critics and jazz disciples alike this spring.
“Get out of Town,” “Can’t We Be Friends?,” “Why Try to Change Me Now?,” the title track and “East of the Sun (And West of the Moon)” are all as texturally expressive as they are subtly communicative of a deeper narrative via their organization of Eva-Marie’s heart-melting vocal and the strings that cushion her every word, English and French alike. Where some artists, particularly in modern jazz, have been more than content to exploit barebones conceptualism for all its worth in recent years, this pair is seemingly taking a different approach to minimalism here (and yielding quite a bit of surrealism in the process, whether intentionally or not).
Tatiana Eva-Marie and Michael Valeanu had no use for a percussionist in “Stardust,” “They Say It’s Spring,” “I Get Along Without You Very Well” and “Le chanson des vieux Amants,” and by omitting drums from each of these tracks, I think they made it all the more impossible for us to ignore the natural rhythm generated by their heavenly harmonies here. They’re playing off of each other’s cues in a manner that makes their collaboration sound more like a symphony than a mere pairing of talents, which is difficult for any act to pull off.
I love the simplicity of the master mix in Bonjour Tristesse, and in “On the Street Where You Live” and “Why Try to Change Me Now?,” I think that the raw nature of the production quality in this LP benefits the muscularity of the melodies more than it doesn’t. There’s a lot of buzz surrounding conservative recording styles right now, and while Eva-Marie and Valeanu aren’t completely rebelling against the trend here, at the very least, they’re certainly putting their own spin on a popular blueprint.
With their combined talents put on the table for all to appreciate in this collaborative album, Tatiana Eva-Marie and Michael Valeanu turn in one of the most moving indie jazz records of 2020 in Bonjour Tristesse, which I am personally ranking among my favorite releases of the spring without debate. These two brilliant minds bring a lot to the recording studio with them in this LP, and for my money, their adherence to both the conventions of the jazz old school and contemporary constructs in songwriting makes theirs one of the most intriguing listens you’re likely to find in the American underground this season.
Photo credit: Christopher Lovenguth