Liquid Courage is the debut album from Halifax, Nova Scotia based jazz group Blue Spirits. The album, recorded at Joel Plaskett’s New Scotland Yard Studio, is an accomplishment in more ways than one.
The album is a return to form for trumpeter and bandleader Paul St-Amand, after several years away from his instrument. “I had stopped playing after high school,” says St-Amand who picked the instrument back up after an 11 year hiatus, as a sort of therapy to deal with his father’s cancer diagnosis. His passion for the instrument and the music he makes with it is apparent on Liquid Courage.
Take the first track ‘Magnifico’, with it’s meandering Jack DeJohnette via Shelley Manne drums, vamping electric guitars and a bass line from Matt MacLennan so tasty that Antonio Jobim would smile ear-to-ear, for example. It’s clear from the get go that this is a group with an obvious passion, and understanding of the genre. St-Amand takes centre stage here, and throughout the album, with creative melodies that are both at once original and steeped in history.
There’s hints of Miles Davis on ‘Margaret’ with it’s long drawn out notes that come from nowhere. Chet Baker rears his head on the gorgeous ‘One Page To Another’, a slow burner that features tasty brush-work from drummer Brendan Melchin. ‘Steeple’, another stand-out track, features a note perfect solo from guitarist Ross Avey that acts as an outstanding compliment to St-Amand’s throwback tone.
While Cool Jazz seems to be the category that would best describe Blue Spirits, funk and blues are absolutely present. ‘Blues For Dino’ is a torch song if I’ve ever heard one, while ‘How To Be Unthoughtful’ and ‘There I go Again’ have elements of pop and funk. The latter features a vocal from St-Amand who proves to be a very capable vocalist.
Liquid Courage is a highly recommended debut for fans of the genre and serves as a promise of even greater things to come from this talented group.