Presenting another ESSENTIAL reissue for your record collection. Haitian-born pianist, composer and arranger Henri-Pierre Noël self-released this gem of an album, way back in 1979. Due to the nature of the original record’s scarcity and more importantly the music held within its grooves, the album has since remained a sought after piece for collectors and DJs alike, often trading hands for three figures on the virtual open market.
Noël has to date put his name to several albums, but many remain difficult to find in the wilderness (his other late 1970’s date ‘One More Step’ is reportedly also worth digging up). As such, after a chance meeting between the pianist and Wah Wah 45s’ Dom Servini took place in his adopted home of Montreal, it seemed like the right time for the record label boss to bring some attention back to the artist’s early work.
Now newly re-mastered from the original multi-track tapes by DJ / producer Kevin Moonstarr, Noël’s début finally makes its way back on to vinyl (and CD and digital) thanks to the renowned London record label, and we can now once again rediscover this killer slice of dancefloor jazz funk.
Having moved to Canada from his original home of Haïti, Noël’s style is soaked in the tropical sounds of the small Caribbean country, drawing much influence from Haitian Kompa Funk and fusing it here with the jazz and disco that was once taking America by storm. As you would expect from such a heady brew of musical strands, the results here are outstanding, with several tracks primed and ready for dancefloor action and serving to remind us all just why this LP remains so relevant almost twenty-five years after its first press.
‘Merci Bon Dieu’, present here in both an instrumental and a previously unreleased vocal version is a fast paced, oft jaunty, composition with Noël’s signature rapid fire piano gliding over a backdrop of driving drums and bass. ‘Cogaxa’ however is equally fierce but melds those same frantic piano lines against a high tempo percussion section. It’s a truly devastating dancefloor jazz tune, deserving of a knee drop or two down in the basement of Shiftless Shuffle.
Other stand out cuts include the righteous gospel blues of ‘Azaka’ and the soulful break heavy ‘Simbi’, both of which tread a slightly more subdued, if no less effective path. Elsewhere, ‘Diskette’ is as the name suggests a disco infused bomb that boasts a strutting bassline, nimble piano vamps, and a wiggle Patrick Adams himself would be proud of, while ‘Ianvanoo’, set against a sweeping, almost syncopated back beat, truly shows off the intricacies of the pianist’s technique.
The only complaint we could have here (and it’s a minor one) is that the fantastic piece of music that is ‘Fantasmes’, initially included on the original LP, seems to have been omitted this time around – I assume to make room for the vocal version ‘Merci Monsieur Noel!’. Here’s hoping it gets a release at some point as a cheeky b-side.
Peep the full track list and get a taster of what to expect with the Bandcamp album preview below then visit the Wah Wah 45s Bandcamp page to be able to pick up this tasty little package without considerably denting your December pay packet. The vinyl can be copped from your local record stores (support!) or the Wah Wah 45s website.
1. Merci Bon Dieu
9. Merci Monsieur Noel!