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Wild Rice by Paul Bourdeau & Shane Simpson

Wild Rice, the new duo release by guitarists Paul Bourdeau and Shane Simpson is an interesting CD. Bourdeau and Simpson (both exceptional players) play a fusion of jazz and bluegrass that they dub "jazzgrass". I don’t have an extensive knowledge of bluegrass music, but I’ve been listening to jazz for many, many years, and I have a hard time accepting this music as falling under that category. While both traditional bluegrass and traditional jazz incorporate improvisation and complex harmonies, the approach to each is decidedly different.

I mentioned it before but it bears repeating that Bourdeau and Simpson are exceptional players. Regardless of how you choose to classify this music, there’s no denying that it’s of outstanding quality. Their technical facility is amazing. Every note is clean and expressive and their timing is impeccable. The songs mainly consist of one person playing rhythm while the other plays lead. All the music on this CD is original, with nine of the twelve tunes penned by Bourdeau and the remaining three contributed by Simpson. The feel of the tunes run the gamut from the lazy, easy-going flow of "Cape North", to the happy bounce of "Malcolm’s Manifesto", to the romantic sway of "Where The Water Meets The Sand". There’s even a Django Reinhardt-inspired piece, Bourdeau’s "Arlechinno", which is particularly fine and steps away from the strong ‘bluegrass’ sound that represents most of the rest of the album.

Overall, this is a very well played, very well recorded album of beautifully written tunes by two great musicians. Is it jazz? That’s open to debate. We could certainly open a can of worms and get into a heated discussion of what constitutes and defines "jazz" as a genre, but in the end it would all be meaningless because music is art, art is beauty and beauty is always in the eye of the beholder.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Paul Bourdeau & Shane Simpson
  • CD Title: Wild Rice
  • Genre: Folk Jazz
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Record Label: Segment Multimedia
  • Rating: Four Stars
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