Maxime Fougères Trio ‘Guitar Reflections Vol. 2’ (Gaya Music Production) 3/5

This guitar, bass, drums trio is headed up by French guitarist Maxime Fougères and features Antoine Paganotti and Yoni Zelnik. 2012 saw the release of Fougères’ first album, “Guitar Reflections”, a tribute to Duke Ellington. “Guitar Reflections Vol 2” includes 10 tracks which are a combination of original compositions and the music of Wayne Shorter, arranged and adapted by Fougères for the trio. Together the trio explore both harmonically and rhythmically Shorter’s music, paying homage to the jazz legend and taking influence from him for their own writing and performing. Fougères enjoys a nice, easy-going style to his playing that appears to suit his bassist and drummer particularly well. That said, the trio do find their own spark on tracks like “Heads Up” where the changes in style and sound work especially well, offering the listener something fresh and inspiring. In general however, as good as the trio’s performance is on this recording, the moments of originality, freedom and expression are little too few and far between. The hard driving “Iris” got me excited though, with the bass and drums creating a great groove for Fougères to solo over. It’s clear to see that the trio have tried to take their music out of the box at times, incorporating different guitar sounds and techniques, styles, colours and textures, along with changes of mood, but in general, although this does offer some nice variation for the listener’s ear, the resulting music is good, but seems to lack that special quality that leads it towards making it great.

Classic Shorter tunes such as “Juju” and “Night Dreamer” are interpreted in a sensitive way, but for this listener lack any real punch or new-found zest. These are nice interpretations that the trio have given a different lilt to, but almost inevitably, when compared to Shorter’s originals, they don’t seem to have a great deal to say, and they certainly don’t have the feel or innovative edge and emotional reaction that I get from listening to the master’s original tunes, even now, so many years after they were first written and recorded by Shorter.

“Guitar Reflections Vol 2” isn’t a greatly memorable album, but it does have some nice interplay between the musicians alongside some quality soloing. In the end though, it lacks any real punch or innovation. It is however, an enjoyable listen, and one can only applaud Fougères for attempting to interpret the music of Wayne Sorter, perhaps surprisingly in a guitar trio format, even if the results don’t hit the heights one might have hoped for.

Mike Gates