LP  REVIEW

Henri-Pierre Noel

Henri-Pierre Noel   ‘One More Step’   (Wah Wah 45s) Released 21st July 2014

The fault lines may run deep, and the humanitarian crisis resulting tropical storms may wreak utter destruction, but the Haitian people continue to endure. Synonymous since its bitter fought independence from the French in 1804 with the vivid ominous local voodoo culture, and later on with the brutal rule of the infamous Duvalier dynasty, Haiti has fortunately been cast in a far more favorable light over the last few years, drawing the global music tourist into its feverish, infectious web.

The last year alone, Haiti has imbued, beguiled and charged albums by The Arcade Fire (who have an ancestral connection to the island through Régine Chassagne) and tUnE-yArDs, and paired-up local poet/writer legend Frankétienne with experimental Scottish guitarist Mark Mulholland for the Chaophonies collaboration. Already granted very favourable reviews elsewhere, including an entry on the Quietus’s reissues of 2014 selection, Strut Records Haiti Direct compilation treats the island’s 60s and 70s music scene with reverential celebration; echoing the revitalisation and celebratory musical archeology of Analog Africa, Soundway and Jazzman et al, who similarly revere music, previously presumed lost, from the African and South American continents.

With this in mind the Wah Wah 45s label has recently re-issued the polygenesis pianist Henri-Pierre Noël’s classic, One More Step; originally released as a limited pressing in the 80s. Moving from his home to Canada, the former émigré would go on to create a Haitian hybrid of the Kompa Funk and sauntered Latin grooves with North American jazz and disco to produce light breezy and diaphanous gilded dance floor gold.

 

A moiety, congruous to the previously rediscovered and also re-issued by Wah Wah 45s, Piano suite (released in 2012), One More Step attunes the classicism and amps up the funk and soul with a chorus of rasping horns and spiritually meditative Hammond organ. With an omnivorous craving, Noël loosely crosses over into a range of appetizing styles; sweetly caressing gospel and narrating in a Barry White-esque deep, husky burr, on the love lost lullaby ‘Will Come A Day’, and moseying into Stax, lamps-turned-down-low, balladry on ‘Bluesy Mood’.

Silky smooth with the odd rough and dirty edge, Noel’s swanky sonorous chops splash and spray across the ivory, sliding up and down the scales until they find a neat spot to rattle of the most melodically twinkly solo.

Mother Africa can’t help but shine through; Haiti’s own indelible roots stamped on every track, played and teased with by the composer. None more so than the opening tributary ‘Afro-Funk Groove’, with its feverish pattered congas and polyrhythm shuffles, or the sweltering Funkenstien, doo-wop female backed chorus line, ‘Funky Spider Dance’. Elsewhere the musical net is cast wide and far, merging samba with jazz (‘Latin Feeling’ and ‘Back Home…Sweet Home’) and weaving a new kind of tropical island classical symphony (‘Roller Skate Rhapsody’).

Of all the various Haitian themed, flavoured and re-examined releases in 2014, One More Step is the grooviest and slickest by far; a sweet and cool (very cool) Caribbean breezy accompaniment to the our own present heat wave.

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