Awake ‘Aubes et Crépuscules’ CD (jazz&people) 4/5

“Dawns and Dusks” is the third release from the French five-piece band Awake, with their lyrical brand of contemporary jazz just as colourful and enthusing as ever. All of the album’s original tunes are co-written by tenor saxophonist Romain Cuoq and guitarist Anthony Jambon, and the quintet is completed with pianist Leonardo Montana, bassist Florent Nisse and drummer Nicolas Charlier. Guest vocalists Anne Sila and Bastien Picot also feature on selected tracks.

There is an innate romanticism to Awakes’s music. Although the two band leaders take the lead on most of the tunes, the band work very much as a collective with a collaborative approach leading to a very satisfying overall sound. In general, their tunes evolve between shadow and light, with evocative imagery coming into focus as the music twists and turns, incorporating jazz, folk and pop influences.

Several tracks hit the spot. The beautifully ethereal “Reverie” could be from the Bill Frisell songbook with its laid-back jazz/country feel. The dark undertones and somber melancholy keep the listener on edge, but as with much of this album there is always a light with hope that springs eternal to lift us away from any impending doom. “Grey Day” is perhaps the album’s killer track, with its wonderful guitar intro leading into some incredible and highly charged interplay between guitar and sax. The melodies are strong and the vibe bright and engaging as the band reach onwards and upwards towards a higher plain of musical consciousnesses. The infectious “A bird with no word” is a great example of how lyrical jazz can be performed in the right hands with its interwoven melodies played with passion and precision. The addition of the vocalists bring a Pat Metheny Group vibe to the proceedings, with “Balance” and “Lueur” very reminiscent of the 90’s PMG in full flow.

An enjoyable album from Awake. Nothing too taxing or difficult about their music, and occasionally lacking a little bit of a unique edge, but very listenable none-the-less. All in all “Dawns and Dusks” is an exciting journey well worth embarking upon.

Mike Gates