Thursday, April 27, 2023

Album Review: Kyle Roussel - Nola a la Mode

Kyle Roussel
Nola A La Mode
**** out of *****

One of the brightest piano players currently at it in New Orleans has stripped out everything else to deliver his first solo, piano only offering, as Kyle Roussel's serves up a tasty slice of Nola a la Mode

Roussel is a graduate from New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) and has played with everyone from Irma Thomas to Jon Batiste, to Christian Scott, to The Preservation Hall Jazz Band. A stout, energetic force on the ivories, his newest release shines the spotlight on his lyrical takes on the 88 keys directly. That is where he continues the tradition, as there are flashes of all of the great New Orleans piano masters who came before him and a lot more.  

The independently released album opens with "Dorothy", a cool breeze with lots of flair and energetic playing; an excellent way to open the album. "The Crave" is dramatic, weaving and bobbing while "Keep on Gwine" is a joyous bouncing affair. Roussel works best throughout this solo album when he toys with frameworks and injects different directions. 

Following in the path of James Booker's "Black Minute Waltz" Roussel uses classical Chopin like lines, moves through jazz inspired scenic pastures and then almost drowns the number in technical overkill but manages to pull back with a cheeky waltzing ending. "A Taste of Honey" is even better as the pop standard starts with large, operatic tendencies, with catastrophic storms brewing before getting sweet in bluesy style, only to end in large powerful fashion; an album highlight. 

Other interpretations are solid if not as exciting. "Elanor Rigby" sounds a bit straight forward, "What A Friend We Have In Jesus" sacrifices gospel passion for more technical/dramatic flair. Better are his piano designed takes on "Mississippi Mud" which grooves things out (while showing off more of his Booker and Dr. John influences) and the smooth prettiness of "Genuflection" which feels like a warm sunset.       

The album runs long for a piano only affair, however, there are lots of good efforts that arrive late.  "Marzique Dancing" gives a tune from Harold Battiste a dramatic run through, "Frankie and Johnny" takes Duke Ellington's big band number and distills through one piano with Professor Longhair inspiration, the multi-layered "Songs of Praise" is a trip, while "Tipitina and Me" along with a tasty version of "Southern Nights", brings Allen Toussaint's influence to the forefront.  

No matter who wrote it, or made it famous, Roussel injects his own feelings, style and unique interpretation into the track, rendering it anew. He can seemingly do it all on piano with second line bounce at times mixed in with floral right hand runs, all wrapped up in staggering classical technique outlined by a soulful spirit; Kyle Roussel's Nola a la Mode is a bright showcase for this talented artist.   
Support the artist, buy the album, peep some video below:

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