His name has appeared alongside so many other konpa artists and groups; he has performed at so many konpa festivals that he hardly needs any introduction . Yet, Armstrong Jeune did surprise everyone with his most recent solo CD released at the very end of last year. Entitled : Dial J for Jazz, suddenly, the young Haitian Konpa artist was unveiling a whole new side of his vast talents, demonstrating that he is not locked in one genre of music. Fred Paul from Mini Record was talking about the “impact it had on him” and one might say that he is not the only to have been so impressed.
Of the 9 songs on the CD, only 3 were not written and composed by Armstrong Jeune. Quite impressive, you will admit! You are taken for a wonderful ride right from the first song. Jeune creates this soft atmosphere of the piano bar with his harmonious phrasing. There is not a lot of noise on the album: a piano, a bass, a guitar and the drum. On a couple of songs, the saxophone comes in and out, nothing heavy, just some nice music which reminds me a lot of Moses Allison, who sings while accompanying himself on the piano. This is A. Jeune’s style of music. Picture yourself in a small club, the couples at the table, listening to the music, voices kept at a minimum, just like this kind of music should be heard.
Jeune is supported by a wonderful cast of musicians. Pay attention to the play of guitarist Joe Demarco. He has such a fluid style and such wonderful phrasing that it is a joy to listen to his solos. Drummer Obed Calvert and bassist Leo Brooks are in perfect sync in the rhythm section. Saxophone player Didier Labossière is also featured on tune No. 9, although I wish he had appeared more often on the CD. Not only are the songs excellent, but we hear a variety of rythms, which make this CD particularly enjoyable and never boring. Either you hear some bossa nova, some swing, some ragtime or something else. Never a dull moment.
Yes, it was a quite a pleasant and unexpected surprise to hear Armstrong Jeune in this genre and I think Fred Paul and Mini Records, given the way the Haitian market operates, should be commended for “taking a chance” in releasing such a CD which, I am almost certain, is not selling like hot cakes. It is terrible to say such a thing, because it should indeed be selling like hot cakes. The music is expertly mixed; the songs that are well arranged and well written. This is the kind of CD that relaxes as you listen and I sure hope that in the future, Armstrong Jeune and other artists like him will explore that field which remains wide opened for Haitian musicians. Meanwhile, take my word for it, go to your record store and buy your copy. I guarantee you will like it.
Help fight Haitian CD piracy, it is bad for everyone.
Serge Bellegarde, for Windows on Haiti