Recent Listening: Grégoire Maret

Grégoire Maret (e-one)

Grégoire Maret divides his time between his mother’s native United States and Europe, where he was born in the land of his Swiss father 37-years ago. For more than a decade, Maret has been in demand for his harmonica playing by performers who occupy distinctly different precincts of music, among them Herbie Hancock and Pete Seeger; Youssn’Dour and Jimmy Scott; Bebel Gilberto and Sting. After years as a sideman on other peoples’ records, Maret has released his own CD. Among his guests and supporting cast are the venerable Toots Thielemans in a harmonica duet with Maret, vocalists Cassandra Wilson and Gretchen Parlato, bassist Marcus Miller and drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts. Maret’s attractive compositions alternate with others by Pat Metheny, Milton Nascimento, Ivan Lins, Stevie Wonder and George Gershwin.

Thoroughly produced, much of the album has a vaguely—often more than vaguely—modern Brazilian ethos. When the relaxed atmosphere, sometimes enhanced by wordless vocal backgrounds, invites contemplation or nodding, Maret’s virtuoso passages and the active rhythm sections generally keep things interesting. Ms. Wilson’s languid vocal on “The Man I Love” is a highlight, even unto a little game of audio peek-a-boo with Maret. The following video does not include Ms. Wilson or the strings on her track, but this is the arrangement, and it allows Maret a thorough exploration of the Gershwin classic. His colleagues here are Frederico Peña, piano; James Genus, bass; Clarence Penn, drums; and Levon Maret, percussion.

If next time around Maret were to harness up a tough rhythm section and tackle a fast blues or, say, something by Bud Powell I, for one, wouldn’t mind. In the meantime, Grégoire Maret is a fine even-tempered companion.

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