Saz Blues is the 4th release of New York based Caribbean born multi instrumentalist JC Maillard (aka Grand Baton, aka Jean-Christophe Maillard). It is an innovative sound in Acoustic Alternative Blues/Rock. The album is performed on a 8 string SazBass, a new instrument (only about 40 of them exist) that JC helped design and had a prototype built for himself in 2002.
“This album is to me the ideal introduction to the future work that I want to release with the SazBass. Before I get into more meaty arrangements I wanted the listener to identify the sound of the instrument in a very intimate setup and feel the full resonance of it. I also wanted to set a precedent for the history of the instrument and tie it to its rustic and spiritual essence. It sounds like it was made for the Blues.”
Saz Blues is an outsider in acoustic Blues and Rock music. The particularity of the SazBass is that it is a double string instrument that allows you to play bass lines together with chords or melodies. JC usually plugs the SazBass into bass amps and it delivers a rich and deep haunting tone with an incredible range of frequencies. Created in 2002, it is inspired by a family of instruments of persian origin that can be found from the Mediterarean sea all through Central Asia.
JC Maillard makes use of the instrument in a wide variety of ways. The double strings are ideal for drones and for modal riffs as shown in “Through My Window” but in its choruses it suddenly reveals it’s quality for strumming incredible chord structures that are unavailable on the guitar. In a same way, the percussive yet tonal quality of the SazBass is showcased in songs like “What I Am To Do” and reaches its apex in the funky, thumpy riff closing “Love Engine”.
The deep overtones of the bass register of the instrument are remarquable in the haunting riff introducing “The Good Guy”, doubled with the low vocals of JC and in the monophonic sequential bass line of “Shakin My Head Laughin” that is played on a single pair of strings.
JC makes mainly use of stomp boxes for drums but also sparingly of electronic drum machines (“Shakin My Head Laughin” and “Love Engine”).
The lyrics tell a personal story song by song, of a well-examined blues theme; a worn-out relationship that has run its course and has come to an end. Beginning with the sadness of ‘What Am I to Do,’ the lyrics examine the feelings of ‘now what?’ and the lonely task of finding one’s direction after heartbreak. Next, and as is often the process with grieving a relationship’s end, the second track, ‘Shaking my Head,’ explores the fantasy of ‘sweet revenge’ immediately following a break-up (“this old dog’s gonna have his day..”) in a lighthearted yet determined effort to relieve oneself of the heartache. In “Through my Window” and “Good Guy” the lyrics become more cynical, describing and reflecting the hopelessness, mistrust and anxiety of ever finding love again, and the questioning of self worth. The last track, ‘Love Engine,’ is the light at the end of the tunnel (as mentioned in the first track), that has found its way in, as the lyrics describe the sexiness and joy discovered in a new and inspiring love interest.
“Saz Blues” is raw and intimate, the quality of the production and the recording makes you feel like you are sitting in the room next to the performer. The album was all written and recorded through the Covid pandemic.