Curiosity is a principle motivator for Gui Duvignau, though what might provide just a diversion for some frequently becomes a passion for the young bassist/composer. From music and art to history and numbers, Duvignau finds ways to immerse himself in subjects, gaining something for the time spent. His new recording, 3, 5, 8, demonstrates his fervor for discovery and his application of it in brilliant fashion.
Duvignau’s French parents were seekers and explorers. After the birth of their son in France and a short time in Morocco, the family settled in Belo Horizonte in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. Here Duvignau was raised with his brother in a household filled with discovery, musical and otherwise. During his teenage years, the family moved to São Paulo, where Duvignau and his brother were attracted to the local rock and metal scenes. Duvignau began to play electric bass after his brother began his focus on guitar.
Rock music didn’t provide the young bassist with enough of a challenge, so he began to dig deeper into the possibilities of his instrument. Duvignau began listening to jazz, ordering CDs online, and waiting for deliveries of classics from Miles Davis, Jaco Pastorius, Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and, especially, Charles Mingus. Studying the liner notes and devouring the music, Duvignau began to focus more and more on jazz. He began taking lessons with a local guitarist who gave him fundamentals on jazz harmony without rigid codifications. Duvignau also began to delve into the rich well of Brazilian music, including the music of Cartola, Tom Jobim, Chico Buarque, Baden Powell, and Elis Regina, among many others.
Berklee School of Music in Boston would be Duvignau’s next stop. He focused on composition and bass guitar but was drawn more and more toward acoustic bass. Studies with composer Vuk Kulenovic led Dugivnau more and more into the realm of contemporary classical music. After his graduation in 2007, Duvignau put down the electric bass to focus on the acoustic bass, taking a few lessons from John Lockwood and others but remaining mostly self-taught.
A short stay in Portugal led to a longer one in Paris, where Duvignau really solidified his approach to composition, augmenting his personal expression in this his chosen artistic field. Recordings he made in Portugal and Paris introduced very different sides of his musical personality, the former a focused quartet with singer Sofia Ribeiro and the latter a sextet recording featuring his highly wrought pieces influenced by contemporary classical music and avant-garde jazz.
It was his move to New York City that led to the development of the music on 3, 5, 8. While completing his master’s degree in jazz studies at New York University, Duvignau was able to meet a number of musicians who would help shape his sound and approach to composing. Duvignau was introduced to Argentinean pianist Santiago Leibson at a recording session and they hit it off immediately. Leibson called the great drummer, Jeff Hirshfield, for one of their initial meetings and the three found a quick rapport as they began to play regular sessions and a handful of gigs.
While at NYU, Duvignau studied with the illustrious saxophonist Billy Drewes. Drewes was an inspiration, not only for his incredible playing, but for his compositional practice. The young bassist had become burnt out by writing highly involved compositions. Drewes recommended the practice of writing every day, no matter what came out. This helped Duvignau break through his writer’s block and focus on developing a simpler, more spontaneous compositional style.
When the opportunity to record came about, Duvignau wanted to form a unit of openminded and flexibly expressive players. He invited his trio mates, Leibson and Hirshfield, and added Drewes. Duvignau also brought in German guitarist and fellow Berklee alum Elias Meister to bring a blues-inflected energy into the quintet’s mix.
Initially self-taught as a composer, Duvignau relies on his own experience as much as his training to inform his compositional style. Brazilian music, especially that of the state of Minas Gerais, can be heard throughout his pieces. Duvignau also developed a book of compositions based on the pentatonic scales in order to focus on simplicity in structure; a number of these pieces can be heard on 3, 5, 8.
The recording begins with the rhapsodic “Volta” (Portuguese for “return”), a nostalgic piece for trio with a sense of longing and a loosely played Paul Motian influence. The bouncy “2” is the second piece in Duvignau’s book of pentatonic compositions and is brightly swung by Leibson and Hirshfield. Written as a love song for his partner of Brazilian and Armenian descent, Duvignau’s “Yerevan” is a gorgeous yet somber tune based on theme and variations meant to pay homage to the Armenian people and their struggles. Duvignau’s buoyant bass and Meister’s hazy guitar introduces “Minas,” a song that is informed in feel and rhythm by the bassist’s boyhood home.
The melancholy “Une pensée pour Paris” is a lilting, meditative ballad that was written upon learning of the devastating fire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, Duvignau’s former home. The playful “Vem Logo!” (meaning “come quickly!”) was written for Durvignau’s recently born niece and is a warm welcome to the world. The ever shifting “Detuned for Drewes” is a dancing tribute to the saxophonist and mentor that encapsulates the energy that Duvignau was able to draw from Drewes. Meister’s strident guitar fits perfectly on “Somewhat,” a piece born of a blues idea. The recording ends with a short and spirited recapitulation of “Detuned for Drewes,” ending appropriately enough with “Right? Wow!”
Finding the poetry in many aspects of life (including numbers), Gui Duvignau has written an ode to his discoveries on 3, 5, 8, whose title is a clever way of announcing his third recording and his focus on pieces for trio and quintet, eight fantastically diverse tunes in total.
released January 22, 2021
Billy Drewes - tenor saxophone
Elias Meister - guitar
Santiago Leibson - piano
Gui Duvignau - bass
Jeff Hirshfield - drums
Gui Duvignau is a French-Brazilian bass player and composer. His multi-cultural background has led to a life of traveling
and musical exploration.
A jazz musician in essence, he also draws inspiration from his experiences performing Rock, Brazilian, and ‘World’ music, as well as his studies in classical contemporary music....more