Louis Matute Quartet ‘How Great This World Can Be’ CD (QFTF) 4/5

Among all the CDs I was forwarded to review; it was the title of this one that captured my attention, especially in the trying times the world is currently going through.

By its title alone, the album conjures a feeling of hope and positivity, which after all, is what we all need right now.

The album is bright with light and reveals pure honesty. Winner of the Cully Special Jazz Prize in 2019, Louis Matute is a rising star in Switzerland, his native country, where he is contributing to the development of the jazz scene.

‘How Great this World Can Be’ is his second album and he is joined by Léon Phal on tenor saxophone, Nathan Vandenbulcke on drums and Virgile Rosselet on double bass, who was already present on his previous album, Telepathy.

The album opens up with ‘Birds’, a calm tune at first but which progresses quickly as the tension between the saxophone and the rest of the instruments increases, leading to a bass solo which is almost timid before the guitar takes over, propelling the tune into a limitless soundscape. This is freedom; Matute is abounding with energy, backed up by some sharp drumming before it is soothed again by the saxophone which brings the tune to a close. To me, ‘Birds’ encapsulates the main emotion of the album – happiness created by an equally simple and complicated concept as that of freedom.

Ineffable is an interesting tune where the energy is almost kept in check as if it was some truth that is hinted at but not quite wanting to be expressed fully. It is only towards the end that it develops slightly but it is soon toned down by the refrain.

‘Argile’, with its eerie beginning, is my personal favourite composition on the album. To me, it evokes fragility. It is a tune full of sensibility, like the beauty of water lapping the shore. It is a peaceful tune, which is used to good effect to demonstrate the reflective side of Matute’s emotions.

Cranking up a notch, the album moves along nicely with ‘Dügü’, a tune whose origin is discernible in world music. With a refrain that is strongly reminiscent of traditional South American music, it is a lively tune with a brisk tempo and which is peppered by some swinging chops in the background.

‘How Great this World Can Be’ is a mellow, even meditative, tune where Matute offers the listeners a subtle cohesive melodic line. He drifts in and out of it with ease, always staying within the boundaries, showing off a certain humility that shows his command, and his love, for the instrument.

In contrast, Matute and Phal both take on a bit of an attitude on ‘Manga Feo’ and ‘Scuact’ and we are all too happy to hear it come through. It is always fun to break a relatively smooth album with some vamp where musicians can stretch themselves and engage in a more fiery dialogue.

The album concludes with ‘Botafogo’ (from the Portuguese literal meaning “set it on fire”), a tune which displays an engaging saxophone solo with a boppish accent and which is broken by Matute’s serene guitar.

All in all, this is a fun album. It includes some good jazz solos, which make you sigh with pleasure, and the ideas flow beautifully. I understand that Matute dedicated the album to the people in his life who, and I quote, “have inspired me without knowing it.” Isn’t that the best part of life and connections? In that sense, Matute’s album arrives timely to the world’s crisis; the message is clear – be kind to one another, just for the sake of kindness, without any expectations, and be grateful for this beautiful life of ours.

Nathalie Freson