Home Feature Album review: Alexis Chartrand and Cédric Dinde-Lavoie – Au Chemin 4

Album review: Alexis Chartrand and Cédric Dinde-Lavoie – Au Chemin 4

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Wow! This is nothing like anything you’ve heard before. Alexis Chartrand and Céric Dinde-Lavoie have joined forces to give us the gift of nine Québecois and Acadian melodies from the traditions of French Canadian culture, played in a completely unique way.

Those of us who follow QuéTrad, the musical folklore of the province of Québec, have our ears constantly listening for new recordings in the lead-up to festival season. Discovering the music most likely to set the world on fire each year is a passionate pursuit. I can confidently tell you now that Au Chemin 4 is IT for this year. This is simply a gorgeous and completely new interpretation of tunes that many of us have been listening to for years.

Alexis, who is certainly the foremost and most accomplished young fiddler in Québec, has been fascinated with Baroque violin for some time — his mom is a French Baroque dancer, and his violin teacher had Baroque instruments and bows. So, Alexis had easy access and the ability and interest in exploring the instrument.

“Baroque violins use gut strings that give a warm, haunting tone,” said Alexis. “That sound was completely engrossing to me.”

Alexis also discovered that the shorter Baroque bow lent itself to obtaining a quicker response that opened up for him a new world of timbre and articulation. He experimented with playing folk-trad music on the Baroque instrument and found that he could re-interpret tunes that were commonly played in sessions.

“I gravitated to the simple tunes,” he said, “and found I could strip them down to interpretation, focusing on merging timbre, articulation and phrasing.”

All he needed was the kind of accompaniment that could complement what he was doing on the Baroque violin.

As a frequent player in the Montreal sessions, Alexis had seen Cédric Dinde-Lavoie a number of times over the years. He knew that Cédric had a background in classical music as well as jazz and West African Mandingo music. In 2021, Cédric released his Archives recording that showcased his exceptional sensitivity to repertoire. Everything Alexis heard led him to believe that Cédric’s approach to the piano allowed him to reveal something new, something never heard before.

“His has a different approach than the usual musical conventions,” said Alexis. “His piano is gentle, sensitive, and restrained.”

Cédric places a layer of felt between the strings and hammers of his instrument to give a softer sound that is very simpatico with the sound of the Baroque violin.

“It’s not so bright and rhythmic,” said Alexis, “so the sound plays with our expectations.”

Alexis and Cédric’s recording process was different too. They did everything in unedited live takes – lots of rehearsals followed by performance with microphones and a videographer. “Just like what you’d do playing for dances,” said Alexis.

“The flow and energy of the tunes is continuous and captured live on video. It gives you an experience of immersion and is closer to the tradition of (Quétrad) dances and music sessions where you have no chance of a re-do!”

“We filmed the whole album,” said Alexis. “There was no editing, just careful work by our filmmaker, Olivier Arsenault, who used his hand-held camera for a series of beautiful long takes.”

The sound engineering as well was exquisitely produced by Nicolas Babineau, long-time friend and musical collaborator of Alexis. The sensitive nature of the recording echoes the gentleness of the music.

But gentleness and sensitivity aside, this recording is a tour-de-force, a showcase of the absolute virtuosity of these two terrific musicians. The official release of this recording is tomorrow, when it will be available as a physical CD, and also available on the usual streaming platforms: http://www.agchartrand.bandcamp.com

You can also check out YouTube to see Olivier Arsenault’s gorgeous films of the live recordings. Here is a sample: Le Brandy

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