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Jazz Rock/Fusion • Canada

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Aquarelle biography
This jazz-rock band made two albums in their relatively short career, the first coinciding with a jazz-rock boom in Quebec. Their energetic fusion-type music was well received at home, but they gained sufficient recognition to be invited to the International Festival of Montreux in Switzerland (not to be confused with Montreal, their home base, which has also an equally important jazz festival nowadays). Their first self-tiled album, also known as Sous Un Arbre, was released in 78, and they managed a second release by recording their set in the famous festival that was made up of almost all-new tracks. They unfortunately broke-up after this release, but leader keyboardist Pierre Lescaut went on with a solo career in new age music.

Why this artist must be listed in :
Excellent jazz-rock fusion

Aquarelle (AKA Sous Un Arbre) (78)
Live At Montreux (79)

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AQUARELLE discography

Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help to complete the discography and add albums

AQUARELLE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.86 | 25 ratings
Aquarelle (Aka Sous Un Arbre)

AQUARELLE Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.87 | 16 ratings
Live In Montreux

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Showing last 10 reviews only
 Aquarelle (Aka Sous Un Arbre) by AQUARELLE album cover Studio Album, 1978
2.86 | 25 ratings

Aquarelle (Aka Sous Un Arbre)
Aquarelle Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by debrewguy
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

2 stars Although I can usually be counted to promote RPQ bands (Rock Progressif Quebecois), Aquarelle are one that just don't do anything to really stand out from the crowd. Even within such a small provincial scene.

They play a very competent jazz rock / fusion, that at times will, at best , remind you of generic TV or movie soundtracks.

The best example that I could give would be this - Francoise sounds like an instrumental backing track for a mid 70s Robert Charlebois out-take. Mellow, melodious, some latin tinged percussion at the end, but nothing that will stick in your mind after the needle (I picked up a used LP copy at Spin-It) rises from the vinyl.

Indeed, while Charlebois was THE Quebec pop rocker par excellence, he knew how to make his music go beyond the stereotype of the many genres that he tried his hand at . And that's Aquarelle main failing. It's not the lack of inventiveness, but rather the lack of any ability to make the music come alive. TO make it their own.

The album title translates to Under a Tree. And while I can imagine it relaxing listening to this playing whilst lying in the shade, I can't call it anything more than barely mediocre.

O.K. , if you just can't get enough of late 70s Jazz Rock /Fusion. But there's more than enough good stuff out there that you should go through first.

 Aquarelle (Aka Sous Un Arbre) by AQUARELLE album cover Studio Album, 1978
2.86 | 25 ratings

Aquarelle (Aka Sous Un Arbre)
Aquarelle Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

3 stars In the second part of the 70's, Quebec was going wild in terms of progressive rock undergoing a sort of cultural revolution/emancipation (Quebec was busy considering flying on its own) and a flurry of bands were seeing the light of day, a good deal of those not really caring about being commercial. Aquarelle is Pierre Lescaut's project; he was the main composer, but everyone in the group had interesting and challenging role in the group, not least Bournaki's violin work.

If you are like me, and have heard a few hundred Jazz-rock/fusion album, chances are that Aquarelle will not sound incredibly inventive or particularly original. What we have here is a very honest and professional album, which fits the mould of what was being released at the time. Sounding close to Ponty's albums of that same era, or many other groups, Aquarelle did not really manage to make a real dent in the market mostly because of the competitive market and the sheer amount of similar music being released, some group were bound to remain in obscurity. Sadly so, because Aquarelle were a very endearing unit that produced a very pleasant JR/F on their two albums, but it was not flawless. One of the more puzzling characteristics about their music is Courtemanche's wordless high-strung vocals (which are often under-mixed) that add some unexpected flavour to the music, but they are rather unusual and can be irritating. Highlights of this album include the (unofficial) title track with the heavy piano work, and the three part eponymous track Aquarelle, where the group does not miss to introduce their wide scoped musical abilities.

While they would go on to record one other (better) album with another vocalist, (this next one in the frame of Montreux's Jazz Festival), Aquarelle's works can only be seen as complementary to the scene of that year. If you are not familiar with their music, I can direct you towards their second album (this one being less essential), but it is not like you would be missing that much if you were not to discover them >> their records have not been re-issued on CD, yet, but it should not be difficult finding the vinyls at reasonable prices. Good but not essential.

 Live In Montreux by AQUARELLE album cover Live, 1979
3.87 | 16 ratings

Live In Montreux
Aquarelle Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by hdfisch
Prog Reviewer

4 stars This excellent record was another one of my recent Canadian shopping tour and although I did not listen to one single note of this group before I bought it I do not regret this purchase at all. What we have here is just wonderful jazz rock alternating between grooving sections and more cool ones with a slight ethnic touch and a considerable proportion of even rocking moments. My co-reviewer Hugues has said already everything before and I can hardly add up anything to his comments and fully agree to him. This flawlessly played live concert is accomplished by a really great line-up of six musicians using a versatile range of instruments plus a pleasant female voice. Jazz rock fans what are you wishing beyond this? Of course whether this record is to be called essential in prog generally I'm not certain about as well but nevertheless I cannot refuse to give it a four star rating since it's an excellent record.
 Live In Montreux by AQUARELLE album cover Live, 1979
3.87 | 16 ratings

Live In Montreux
Aquarelle Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

4 stars After their artistically successful debut album, Aquarelle managed enough a notice to be invited to one of the biggest Jazz Festival in the world, in Switzerland, the city of Montreux. This second record is the recording from that gig, where they presented a whole new set of tracks bar one. The line-up is almost the same but Sharon Ryan replaced the departing A-M Courtemanche. The least we can say is that their new set was already well-rehearsed and all tracks of an amazing quality (and played flawlessly - no back-up). It got released on the label WEA, but this was done at lesser cost, something a few jazz-rock groups having difficulties in finding someone wanting to pay for the production and sessions of a genre on a rapid decrease of interest from the public.

From the opening Machine to the closing La Nouvelle, the first side of the slice of wax is simply astounding in tightness and Ryan's occasional vocal wails bringing a wild twist to their music. Leader keyboardist and main composer Lescaut makes sure that everyone gets plenty of space to shine, and the Récital is veering slightly to a more ethnic flavor (Bournaki's violin inducing this, he sounds a bit like Ponty, Lockwood or an updated Grapelli), but we are in a very pleasant jazz-rock with some excellent musicianship, but nothing groundbreaking either. These guys sway from a high-energy jazz-rock to a cool fusion and sometimes some downright rock moments.

The second side opens on a adaptation of Albert Camus' L'Etranger, then flies in to the slow-starting two-part Esterel (a mountain range bordering on the French Riviera and its famed jazz scene) and the lengthy closer (Sound Magic in English) is a very apt and energetic track to end the record with. There are placed for a few duos with the violin exploring a jig and other instruments rocking the joint for all its worth.

The second (and unfortunately last) album from Aquarelle is much worth your investigation, as it is simply excellent, but whether one should think that the album is essential is altogether a different matter.

Thanks to Sean Trane for the artist addition.

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