Quentin Sirjacq: Bright Days Ahead

Largely eschewing the melancholy that often characterizes piano-centered albums, Bright Days Ahead lives up to the promise of its title. Following upon French composer / pianist Quentin Sirjacq's 2011 debut album La Chambre Claire, the new release is a generally joy-filled affair, though, truth be told, it's not exclusively a pure piano recording but rather one that mixes solo pieces with chamber ensemble performances. Two other details characterize the release: the fact that it's a soundtrack, for one, (specifically, to the French film Les Beaux jours) and that its sixteen pieces clock in at a svelte twenty-five minutes for another. The recording's brevity isn't a crippling issue in itself; however, two of the solo piano pieces are so brief that they barely register as fragments, and hearing them elaborated upon would have been welcome. “Hotel” and “Soliloquy” are each less than half-a-minute long and thus could have withstood further development for the recording release.

Directed by Marion Vernoux and starring Fanny Ardant, the film traces the events in a recently retired woman's life when Caroline visits a senior center (named Les Beaux jours) and, instead of partaking in the center's customary activities, develops an amorous relationship with Julien, a young and carefree ladies' man. Endearingly melodious and harmonious, Sirjacq's breezy compositions draw upon classical and acoustic jazz traditions and often evoke the mood of a quintessential 1960s French romance (never more so than during “Hide-and-Seek,” which alternates between uptempo jazz passages and moments of wistful longing). In the chamber settings, painterly dashes of woodwinds and strings subtly enhance the pianist's lilting patterns, and both joy-filled and nostalgic moods are powerfully evoked, with the high-spirited “Swimming and Laughing Bonus Track” (where traces of klezmer seemingly surface) and wistful “Beachfront” respective examples.

No egoist, Sirjacq isn't shy about sharing the spotlight with his guests. “Bright Days Ahead Opening” for example, highlights the contributions the double bassist, strings, and woodwinds players bring to the project, while the brief “With the Wind” is scored for strings only. All told, Sirjacq's refined collection is another high-quality addition to the Schole discography, even if some of its sixteen pieces might have been longer.

November 2013