Since 1976, Pierre Bensusan has been recording instrumental guitar music. On Nice Feeling, he leaves the listener with just that, a very, very nice feeling, (even though, as the back of the jewelbox points out, Nice is pronounced like the city in France or what you would call your brother’s daughter—niece.) This classical and jazz-based acoustic compilation features tunes from his first six albums, which are available on Rounder Records.
On first listen, it is obvious that Bensusan has a knack for coming up with flowing guitar lines as well as beautiful melodies. His bass lines are rich and full, without being dominant, which is crucial in keeping me from turning off an instrumental, acoustic album. On the more recent recordings he seems to have been more willing to add delay to his guitar, which can sometimes make a song sound a little busy, but can also at times make it just overflow with energy.
On “Flemish Suite With Apples,” Bensusan surprises with us a saxophone and some very ambient scat singing over his cool guitar lines. Later the singing becomes more prevalent and takes almost an African tone, before returning to a firm base in renaissance tones and Pizzarelli-style scat-over-identical-guitar-solo type jazz. The vocals are scarce on the album, which only makes them that much better when they are actually present.
Several times, Bensusan steps into two of my favorite musical realms, Scottish and Irish folk music. These songs stand out as masterpieces of alternate tuning, in this case, DADGAD. If you’re the kind of person who needs to attach an Open-? name to an open tuning, that would be Open D Suspended, which has one string just a half step sharp of a very prominent blues slide tuning, Open D.
Bensusan reminds one me of no one in particular, but merely someone a true music lover might be lucky enough to see on tour somewhere, probably at a small independent place that holds maybe a 100 people, and probably would cost you nearly as many dollars. If he is anything close to as good live as he is on this album, it would be well worth the price of admission.
At times on Nice Feeling, I am reminded of a renaissance faire, others, a royal procession. The songs are energized throughout, and dazzlingly played. If Pierre Bensusan wants to play at my wedding, (if ever one should occur), he will be more than welcome.
// Notes from the Road
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