If the Chronique musicale serves a particular purpose, it is to highlight what I consider to be the best in Haitian music, even though I have to underline that these choices are highly personal. But you will agree with me - when you get to listen to it – that Jean Michel Clermont's “Dyalòg – Music for Acoustic Guitar”, has to be ranked among the best in Haitian music. I remain grateful to this intermediary who put me in touch with Jean Michel Clermont and the latter turn sent me his CD, thinking that I might like it. And he said so with great modesty, I might add. Folks, as soon as I heard the first few notes, I felt like picking up the phone to call and ask him the following question: where have you been hiding all this time?
For those who love music for the guitar, Clermont's CD is a real gem. Since the immortal Frantz Casséus, very few Haitian guitarists have been able to produce a solo guitar album and if my memory does not fail me, the most recent was by Ricardo Frank, better known as “Ti Plume”, a name more associated with the famous Haitian group “Les Ambassadeurs”, rather than with his solo outing, even though it remains an excellent CD. And this CD was released at least 3 to 5 years ago. It is unfortunate that the limited audience for this kind of music imposes such financial pressures on these artists, a situation which prevents the exposure and the talents of Haitian classical and jazz artists, to the great detriment of many music lovers. Jean Michel Clermont is just one more “échantillon “ of our reservoir of hidden talents.
It is quite a musical experience to listen to this CD. Jean Michel Clermont has a most fluid style which reminds me of the late great Frantz Casséus and the great Brazilian guitarist Laurindo Almeida. The title tune “Dyalòg” reflects precisely the pensive side of the guitarist. He is engaged in a dialogue with his own self and it is as if you are following the different moods in the conversation: pensive, playful, thoughtful, inquisitive; and at times, he lets his mind wander through his fingers. The music is most relaxing. His arrangements are a superb blend of his classical and jazz knowledge and his knowledge of Haitian folkloric rhythms in which the conga plays a most important role.
In the liner notes, writer Gus Martins quotes Jean Michel in those terms: “So, as a conga player, primarily, that's how I approached the guitar”. Interesting combination, if there ever was one!. One would not expect a conga player to play the guitar like this and there lies the genius of Jean Michel. Listen for example to tune No. 2 “Libète”, where you can almost hear the conga in his phrasing. One of the most striking characteristics of Jean-Michel's music is his tremendous sense of creativity that is present throughout the album. He weaves effortlessly from traditional songs like “Libèté”, “Nibo” to more modern songs like “Sesibon” , “Time”, to name only these. 5 of the 10 songs on the CD are original compositions: Dyalòg, Konplent, Dans pa M, Gita Senp and Time. Each one of them showcases the tremendous classical talent of the guitarist, as well as his jazz training and his profound knowledge of Haitian folkloric music. Tune no. 4, Dans pa M is a gem combining the classical, the modern and the traditional genres.
I was also most impressed with his arrangement of the Haitian classic tune “Nibo”. From the introductory note, it is simply fascinating to follow the different movements in the song, as you wonder where Jean Michel's inspiration is taking us. This is pure enjoyment!
“Dyalòg – Music for Acoustic guitar” which came out late last year, feels and sounds like a quilt in which the colours and the lines are closely and harmoniously organized. The music wraps you up and takes you on a wonderful journey. Jean Michel Clermont may not be making a whole lot of waves among the public at large, at least not yet, but as the proverb says, everything comes to him who waits. That I am convinced of. That is why I would urge you, if you do not find the CD in store, to access Internet sites to obtain your copy. It is a rather simple search operation. You go to Google, type the name of the artist and you order your copy and bite your nails until your receive your copy. You will enjoy it.
Help fight Haitian CD piracy, it is bad for everyone.
Serge Bellegarde for windows on Haiti
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