Paul Bocuse to Julia Child, France has been known to spawn many of the
world's culinary greats over the years. However, Parisian guitarist Michael Valeanu gives new meaning to the word gourmet with Hard To Cook, his sophomore effort as composer and bandleader. A wordplay on French expression Dur á Cuire, meaning tough cookie, Hard To Cook
is meant to please the most demanding musical tastemakers. The
ingredients of the feast come from everywhere: a pinch of folk, a
sprinkle of impressionism, a generous spoonful of groove, and a minute
knowledge of jazz guitar tradition.
in the footsteps of Wes Montgomery and Jimmy Smith, John Scofield and
Larry Goldings, and fed by the eclecticism of the New York scene,
Valeanu chose the Hammond organ, guitar and drums trio to present the
music on this record. Purists will admire the matchless mastery of this
trio featuring Jake Sherman on organ and Jake Goldbas on drums, while curious music lovers will savor a compelling blend of love songs, groove anthems and short acoustic poems.
Hard To Cook
is a dream come true for Valeanu who learned jazz listening to Wes
Montgomery records. "I fell in love with the Hammond, it has the sonic
breath of a whole orchestra, and complements the guitar most
beautifully." To realize his idea, Valeanu led a triumphant Kickstarter
campaign that allowed him to have complete artistic independence.
Photo Credit: Philippe Cap
like Valeanu himself, both members of his trio are also
jacks-of-all-trades, masters of many, with groove as the common
denominator. On the organ, Sherman's playing can resemble Ellington's
sax section on the gripping "Blood Count," or the fiercest of bass
players on "Norwegian Omelette." Goldbas is another force to be heard:
with hard driving swing on "Firm Roots," irresistible groove on "Hard to
Cook," and subtle percussion work on "Floating Island."
The icing on the proverbial the cake is none other than France's freshest diva, vocalist Cyrille Aimée,
for whom Valeanu plays guitar and collaborates. She is a featured
vocalist and lyricist on the savory "20 Years," which manages to appear
as a simple bucolic folk song despite its rhythmic complexity, and
continues to dazzle with a virtuosic scat lesson on the odd metered "How
Deep Is the Ocean." We also owe Aimée the blossoming of Valeanu as a
producer, which gives Hard To Cook its unique flavor in contemporary jazz.
originals that Valeanu brings to the table are true to his eclecticism:
a thoughtful introduction calling classical composer Leo Brouwer to
mind, an exuberant groove of the title track, and the country scene
conjured by Aimée's lyrics on the purely melodic "20 Years." Like the
best of chefs, Valeanu aims to please, and with Hard To Cook, leaves listeners craving for more.
About Michael Valeanu:
in Paris, France in 1985, Valeanu began playing guitar when he was
14-years-old. While in Paris, he studied at the Nadia & Lili
Boulanger Conservatory as well as at the Edim/National School of Music
of Bourg-La-Reine. During this time, Valeanu was affirming his spot in
the local Parisian music scene as both a sideman and a studio musician.
moved to New York City in 2008 to attend the New School for Jazz and
Contemporary Music in order to branch out into the jazz scene even
further. Since moving to New York, Valeanu has played a myriad of clubs
such as Smalls, Birdland, Jazz Standard, and Smoke, as well as various
festivals throughout the United States. Since becoming a mainstay in the
New York jazz scene, he released his debut album Tea Time in 2012.