Nick Rousseau: This Entity Makes Music

Apparently selfless guitarist Rousseau allows ego to be subsumed for the greater good, forsaking solo focus for engaging ensemble work


By rejecting the convention for solo spotlighting, virtuoso guitarist and composer Nick Rousseau has constructed one of the least egotistical and paradoxically most engaging albums to have emerged out of the jazz scene for many years. Rousseau began guitar studies at age 13 and later received his bachelor of music degree in jazz performance from Florida International University and his master’s from NYU studying with Chris Potter and Wayne Krantz amongst others.

Whilst Rousseau’s album title is, perhaps unintentionally, a nod to the message scrawled on Woody Guthrie’s guitar (“This machine kills fascists”), the objective effect of the undefined said entity (guitar, album or musician) is much the same, removing the great “I am” from the mix. The result is a genuinely surprising 45 minutes of hypnotic lyricism which instantly draws the listener in and keeps them fascinated.

Whilst a comparison with others is otiose in this context, there might be vague similarities with say, Maria Schneider or Kenny Wheeler in terms of the ensemble’s consonance throughout the 10 tracks. Rousseau uses his guitar to deploy iridescent soundscapes underneath the multifold lines. The organic interplay between vocalist Justine Garcia and trumpeter Alex Sipiagin on As The World Crumbles Around Me and with saxophonist Jake D’Ambra on Jigsaw Labyrinth is spellbinding. Whilst the focus of the music is on limpid, often serpentine, interaction, there are also more conventional ensemble passages such as heard on Terra Deforma which presents the piece in more of a typical jazz format.

Garcia does not exclusively lead on the usually wordless singing. One example of this is Fever Dreams. which features lyrics and vocals by Berklee alumnus Jacob Aviner. The centrepieces of the album are 03-21-19 and Geraldine, dedicated to Rousseau’s wife. On both compositions Rousseau is heard laying down florid, mellifluous guitar lines that, rather than disrupt the flow of the music, embellish it seamlessly.

As The World Crumbles Around Me; Into The Labyrinth; Jigsaw Labyrinth; Terra Deforma; Fever Dreams; 03-21-19; Geraldine; Bastion Of Sadness; Life Cycles; This Entity Will Make Music (45.03)
Rousseau (elg); Jake D’Ambra (ts); Alex Sipiagin (t); Justine Garcia, Jacob Aviner (v); I’RO (f, cl, bcl); Carlin Lee (p); Sean Hannon (b); Tim Volozh (d). New York City, October 2021-July 2022.
Adhyâropa Records R00013