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Grégoire Maret: Americana

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    When Swiss harmonica virtuoso Grégoire Maret emerged on the New York City jazz scene 20 years ago, his jaw-dropping facility and uncanny expression caught the attention of a slew of heavy-hitters, including David Sanborn, Cassandra Wilson, Meshell Ndegeocello, and Pat Metheny. Known to go toe-to-toe with sax players in blazing torrents of post-bop fusillades or embellish a ballad with rare poignancy, Maret soon became a hot commodity. By last count, he has appeared on 60 albums as a sideman while releasing only five as a leader or co-leader. His latest, a gorgeous meditation on the American Dream, in collaboration with French pianist Romain Collin and guitar visionary Bill Frisell, is the perfect healing balm to soothe angst-ridden souls in these pandemic times. From their peaceful opener, a bucolic take on Mark Knopfler’s “Brothers in Arms,” to Frisell’s engaging, folksy “Small Town,” to Romain’s heartland anthem “San Luis Obispo,” with Maret doubling Frisell’s twangy electric guitar lines, this is all warm, comforting material. A heart-rending interpretation of Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman,” Maret’s sweet lullaby “Back Home,” and the hymn-like “Still,” underscored by Frisell’s swirling, entrancing guitar loops, also weave a subtle spell on listeners.

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