An album showing, once more, just what the banjo can do.
When Bela Fleck says he has found “a new mature and poetic voice on the 5 string banjo. Beautiful compositions and a very nice touch” then it’s time to take a listen. Max Allard is a composer of instrumental pieces – and ‘Odes / Codes‘ is predominantly his work for banjo, but there are a couple of guitar and a piano piece as well. And a couple of covers – both transcribed from piano compositions – Chilly Gonzales’ ‘Rideaux Lunaires‘ and the Aphex Twins’ ‘Avril 14‘ the one touched by modern jazz and the other by a Fin de Siècle ambience. Allard’s own compositions are by no means lesser – there’s a strange cyclical feel to ‘Until Further Notice‘, which was written at the start of the 2020 first lockdown and has an ominous progression that foreshadows the depths of the Covid experience still to come. ‘Benton’s Lullaby‘ may be relaxing and gentle but it’s doubtful if any child ever fell asleep to the lovely coda of harmonic notes. ‘Deco‘ is a curious duet – recorded with Allard’s producer Jayme Stone – which, due to an unreliable fifth peg on Allard’s banjo, is two parts recorded separately on Stone’s banjo. Stitched together so seamlessly you’d never know it, ironically it perhaps more evokes a Parisian boulevard and the strange curlicues of art nouveau rather than the geometrics of deco – still lovely though. When he switches to guitar, as on ‘Bittersweet Avenue‘ we’re safely within folk-jazz territory whilst with ‘Hindsight‘ there is that actual touch of near-newgrass banjo you may be craving.
If your banjo musical ears travel further than bluegrass, Dixieland jazz and folk – and it really should if one is to ever appreciate what music can be wrung from this versatile instrument – then these are sounds from a talented musician and composer that you’ll want to hear.