New Orleans to Lyon -
French Preservation New Orleans JB - Volume 2
with special guests: John Royen & Kjeld Brandt
Jazz Review - Internet Publication
Perhaps you are very unaware of the French Preservation
Jazz Band. Based in Lyon, France, the New Orleans style octet is well
known in the Crescent City itself.
The energetic band played the French Quarter Jazz Festival regularly since
2001. Make a note on your calendar. This year they appear on the Continental
Airlines International Stage in the 400 block of Bourbon Street. The festival
runs from April 8th through 10th. The French jazz band is no stranger
to gigs in New Orleans and have graced the stage at Preservation Hall,
the Storyville Jazz Club and Palm Court Café
The new session was recorded in Lyon in October 2004 at Restaurant Le
Prisca a Villeurbanne. Two renowned guests were recruited for the performance.
John Royen is one of the busiest pianists in New Orleans and appears on
literally dozens of albums. Born in Washington, DC, Royen moved to the
Crescent City in the 1970s. The youthful looking piano man learned his
craft under the tutelage of Don Ewell. My introduction to Royens
capability was when a friend demonstrated his recording with The Louisiana
Repertory Jazz Ensemble.
The other, and equally important guest, is the Danish clarinetist, Kjeld
Brandt. Brandt heads the highly successful band New Orleans Delight based
in Copenhagen and loved all over Europe. Kjeld is a humble individual
who always seems surprised when critics praise his work. A purist from
the start, Brandt plays a vintage Boehm system metal clarinet and is an
expert on the history of the instrument in early jazz. He follows in the
steps of George Lewis, Louis Cottrell, Albert Burbank and Omer Simeon.
New Orleans Delight is one of my favorite bands.
Jean-Pierre Alessi is another purist and expert in the history of jazz
in Louisiana. His idol is the late Emmanuel Manny Paul, a
veteran tenor player who was everywhere New Orleans jazz was played. Like
Kjeld Brandt, Alessi is a vintage instrument enthusiast and plays a 1938
Martin Indiana saxophone. He also owns an old Conn from the twenties,
the same as Capn John Handy used to play.
The French Preservation Jazz Band has a repertoire of tunes based upon
the New Orleans revival period of 1940 to 1970 and played by the bands
of Kid Thomas Valentine, Capn John Handy, George Lewis, Jim Robinson
and especially Manny Paul. The band is passionate and boisterous, always
having fun. The enthusiasm easily transfers to the audience. Its
a good time to crank up the volume and find your dancin shoes.
Some tunes merit a special mention. A Handful Of Keys, the old Waller
favorite features John Royen. Royen and Kjeld Brandt share the spotlight
on Old Rugged Cross and its my number one pick on Volume 1. Clarinetist
Brandt also steals the show on the beautiful hymn In The Upper Garden.
Volume 2 has some great stuff too. The old Fred Melrose country piece,
Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain kicks off the set. John Royen shows his eight
beat skills with Melanies Boogie and the entire band has great fun
with Big Bad Bully, a tune that is new to my ears. Jean-Pierre Alessi
really tears loose on a great arrangement of Tiger Rag. My pick of the
crop on the second volume is certainly the fabulous version of Sister
Kate. John Royen takes a solo sounding more like Jelly than
The French Preservation New Orleans Jazz Band is a loose cannon wielding
a lot of power. Trumpeter Alain Martien and trombonist Frederic Espinoux
are powerful players in the styles of Armstrong and Ory. The rhythm section
of Henry Lemaire, Guillaume Gerdil and Herlin Mc Fly does and admirable
job throughout the two volumes. Its a happy and energetic band.
- Richard Bourcier
Boxells Jazz Website - New Zealand
Jazz Internet Site
The antagonism betwixt the English and the French goes back as far as
1066. In the past I have conceded that they make passable coffee, though
I'd balance that with beer that truly reflects the nickname of 'piss'
(ok, so some of the Alsatian beer is passable, but then isn't Alsace really
part of Germany?). When addicted to the weed I used to enjoy their cigarettes
as being flavorful, though again, I'd balance that against the fact that
their food was garlic soaked and under cooked. I have always found their
idiosyncratic cars 'interesting' and have been filled with joy at their
love of 'Le Rocker' motorcycling habits, especially as I had been one
of the Rockers they so admire. Now I have to admit that they can play
good swinging New Orleans jazz as well as the Brits, albeit with American
pianist, John Royen and Danish clarinettist Kjeld Brandt to help them
out. Only a fellow Englishman will know how it hurts to admit that!
I had come across Jean-Pierre Alessi playing with another French jazz
band, Sweet Mary Cat but apart from guest Kjeld Brandt the other band
members are all new to me. Perhaps it will be best to introduce them to
you, in case you too are unfamiliar with them. Jean-Pierre himself is
a Manny Paul disciple and plays both tenor and alto sax. Given the four-man
front line, the tenor gets the most use, though tonally at times it gets
lost under the trombone. Given a bit of free air, or a solo break you
get to hear the man play some innovative jazz. Trumpeter Alain Martien
actually reminds me of New Zealand's Lindsay Meech only better (how's
that for a compliment?). Frederic Espinoux manages to make his trombone
produce a sound like an excited bubble bee in a bottle and makes the CDs
worth buying just to listen to him. Then there is Henry Lemaire whose
ringing banjo style brought to mind Hugh Rayne, late of Bob Wallis Storyville
Jazz Band and Cy Laurie's Jazz Band. Guillaume Gerdill and Helin McFly
on bass and drums I almost dismissed as being too discreet until I played
the CD on my home system rather than my portable CD player: I really must
get a better quality one than the El Cheapo job I have at present. John
Royen on piano is a revelation as when he needs to he provides sold second
line backing, but when given a break or a solo number (A Handful of Keys)
he really gets into his stride. Kjeld Brandt? What more can I say than
I already have? One of the world's finest New Orleans clarinettist.
The tunes are a good mix of jazz standards and little heard numbers all
squeezed long enough to extract all of the juice but not over squeezed;
so no pith. There are pacey numbers, slow numbers and some in between
and all of them good to listen to. At times I felt the 4 man frontline
was getting a might crowded and felt that a bit more elbow room wouldn't
have gone amiss, but one thing for certain: the band sound as it they
enjoying playing together and are having fun doing it. I've enjoyed listening
to the CDs for the past two weeks. I'm now going to lend them to my old
dad. Knowing the type of New Orleans jazz he likes best, I doubt I will
see them back for a while.
- Geoff Boxell
Kings Jazz ReviewBritish
Internet Jazz Magazine
The interesting, informative liner notes by Marcel Joly cover both the
albums; therefore, it is advantageous in reading them prior to listening
to the 22-recorded tunes. It does not say where the restaurant is situated,
and if Villeurbanne is a village or town and what country it is in, or
that the dinning place is in Lyon, South East France, on the river Rhone,
a little bit North of Grenoble.
One can wander far and wide to come across the complete New Orleans Jazz
Band, I have to say that such a phenomenon came to me, that is to say
that the eight-piece French Preservation is at once to be said that it
is a jazz band - complete. What I mean by that is that no musician gets
in the way of the other. Yes, one may pick out a choice instrument, but
here all having top quality skills making the group shine and full-blooded
as noticed to great satisfaction by the diners customers - reluctant
to let them part.
In The Upper Garden is played with feelings throughout. The banjo strikes
a nice string on Chinatown. Ice Cream is fast and furious sending out
nostalgia fever. A Handful Of Keys is a masterpiece by the pianist. The
Old Rugged Cross features clarinet, piano, tenor, trumpet, and ensemble
making the heart throb to great extent. Algiers Strut is a nice trot by
trombone down ones way. With Gerdil and McFly, string bass and drums,
keeping it all wonderfully smoothly together for over two and a half hours
- now that for me is - complete.
Notwithstanding the Boogie and another one, the remainder on Volume two
are all jazz standards, played by "The French Preservation New Orleans
Jazz Band" in such a fashion that those tunes should remain popular
for many years to come - nice.
- Ian King
Brian Wood—British Jazz Reviewer
Following a prolonged attack of shingles, coupled with the realisation for a number of reasons that I was unlikely ever to visit New Orleans again, I was brought so low in my mind that I felt incapable of doing justice to a request from Big Bill Bissonnete to review a double album on his Jazz Crusade label of the French Preservation New Orleans Jazz Band with special guests John Royen and Kjeld Brandt. I got so low that I scarcely bothered to listen to music anymore.
Then one day half-heartedly out of curiosity I played the CDs for the first time and my first thought was to be reminded of one of the Bunk Johnson talking recordings where he describes a New Orleans street parade with the police mounted escorts prancing to the sound of the band, with no trouble or anything of that kind, and the music doing all, the good in the world. This music from France so ably assisted by guests from the United States and Denmark did me all the good in the world, otherwise I would not be able to provide these few comments.
It would be foolish of me to enthuse of this as the greatest band in the world or some such other extravagant hyperbole, but it is a good-time outfit eminently capable of playing the greatest music in the world with up tempo gusto, and also with the necessary inward reflection appropriate to slower numbers, and especially the hymns.
Many years ago when I played bass I once moaned to our trumpet player that he got to lay on all the gravy whilst I just plodded away on those pedal notes. Fortunately he reminded me that without the rhythm section the front line couldn't perform. Thus, if I fail to mention the individual members of this outfit it does not mean I have failed to appreciate their contribution. For me the outstanding revelation was that of Alain Martien, a trumpet player previously unknown to me. Make no mistake about it, this kiddie can really blow, and whilst his pyrotechnics may shift a few cobwebs from mouldy ears, for me he is the man. Nice tone, too!
Hearing John Royen at the top of his game, having often seen and heard him in New Orleans, should have cast me down with melancholy thoughts of the "no more" variety, but who could resist his eloquent stride piano. There is word that John had lessons from Don Ewell - another blessed name to conjure with - but his style is his own, and he provides the perfect foil for the clarinet of Kjeld Brandt. Maestro Brandt has become a force to reckon with in European traditional jazz circles for he has managed to be innovatory within the stylistic traditions of the musical style.
Finally, mention has to be made of the exuberant Jean-Pierre Alessi. Humphrey Lyttelton once remarked about Sidney Bechet it seemed as though if the soprano sax was knocked from Sidney's hands it would continue playing. Well, I get the feeling that Jean-Pierre's gutsy sax in similar circumstances would get up and bite back! So, if you're down in the dumps here is Doctor Wood's prescription. "Take the French Preservation New Orleans Jazz Band at a very minimum of three times a day before, during and after meals. Swallow a draught of the golden neck oil of your choice, and lie back and think of New Orleans!"
- Brian Wood
Brian Harvey Radio Program—Internet Radio
I used to avoid French ‘revivalist’ jazz like the plague having worked in Dobell’s Charing Cross Road, London record shop in the days of multi Claude Luter and similar French ‘trad’ band releases and I was recently torn to shreds in another journal for describing a current French New Orleans style band as having a distinctive and rather strange ‘Gallic’ tonality. Here - on two CDs however is the proof - if any were needed - that there are musicians in France who have so absorbed the New Orleans ethic and ethos that they sound for all the world like a current band based in that city. The wonderfully infectious spirit and atmosphere of the session on these two CDs is aided not inconsiderably by the fact that they were recorded ‘live’ at the Restaurant Le Prisca a Villeurbanne in October 2004.
Both Big Bill Bissonnette - the owner and driving force behind the Jazz Crusade label - and I agree that there is no substitute in jazz for live “warts and all” sessions with no splicing and removal of ‘clinkers’. To hear jazz truth the sessions must be cut ‘live’. For me these are perfect sessions. You get to spend 153 minutes in the company of eight guys, the majority of whom have served their time in the Crescent City and learned the essential lessons. Like - relax - don’t overblow - let the rhythm speak for itself - listen to the other guys - don’t compete - compliment. Layback on the beat - go with the flow - let it happen. It would be unfair to pick out too many names here because everyone plays their part in making a series of superb tracks. But it would be equally unfair to not single out trumpet man Alain Martien whose absorption of the idiom is awesome - here he is a New Orleanian. Leader Alessi is so rhythmic its frightening but he’s always in control, Kjeld Brandt on clarinet is amazingly sensitive and poetic - one of the modern giants. Frederic Espinoux’ trombone is percussively effective but also melodic - he’s a good man. And the rhythm section too is outstanding with the stride work of pianist John Royen being a great revelation. What a joy he is - wonderful. These guys are masters of the jazz art…..more please gentlemen……
- Brian Harvey
Mississippi Rag Review: U. S. Jazz magazine
France has always been receptive to American jazz and American jazzmen. Why is it, then, that there has been so little New Orleans revival style jazz played in France? This is a question addressed by Marcel Joly in his notes to JCCD-3107. In brief, he notes that part of this harks back to the influence of the two leading French critics, Hugues Panassie and Charles Delaunay. After WWn, the two had a musical falling out, with Panassie remaining pretty much the traditionalist and Delaunay moving into the new directions jazz was taking. Neither of them had much use for the New Orleans revival bands. Panassie thought all of the good musicians had moved north in the Twenties, leaving only the inferior musicians behind. The other reason for the neglect of the revivalists was the influence of Sidney Bechet, who spent his last years in France and became something of a national hero. Several of his devotees, including Claude Luter and Maxim Saury, became well-known band leaders. However, although Bechet was originally from New Orleans, he was not involved with the New Orleans revivalists. (His brief encounter with Bunk Johnson did not work out very well, it is said.)
The situation has changed in recent years, however, and today France has several popular revival bands. The French Preservation New Orleans Jazz Band is one of the best, as can be inferred by the excitement they generate and by the ebullience of the audiences at the two live sessions documented by the four CDs under review here. The Lyon session was recorded in October 2004, and the Irigny session in December of the same year. Each session featured two special guest artists.
In Lyon the line-up begins with Jean-Pierre Alessi, a tenor and alto saxophonist who is a disciple of Emanuel Paul and Captain John Handy. The trumpet man is Alain Martien, who for 20 years has been making annual trips to the Crescent City to play with the indigenes there. His influences include Louis Armstrong and Kid Howard. Frederic Espinoux is on trombone. Henri Lemaire mans the banjo ala Manny Sayles. Guil-laume Gerdil is on string bass, and Herlin McFly (real name Vincent Hurel) is the drummer. The guest musicians are the American stride pianist, John Royen, and the Danish clarinetist, Kjeld Brandt. Royen, a brilliant student of Don Ewell, plays like Ewell reincarnated. (Ewell was the reincarnation of Jelly Roll Morton and Fats Waller.) Kjeld Brandt has played with veteran New Orleans musicians and leads his own band, New Orleans Delight, composed of Danish and Swedish musicians. His sound is very much in the George Lewis vein.
In Irigny, we find a piano-less kitty-hall-type group. Joining Alessi and Lemaire are Joel Gregori-ades (string bass), Clody Gratiot (drums), with the special guests, Big Bill Bissonnette (trombone/vocals) and Fred Vigorito '(cornet). Bissonnette is well known as a promoter/record producer/musician/ author. He has produced and supervised over 100 jazz recording sessions. He is the tailgate trombonist-leader of the Easy Riders Jazz Band, and the author of Jazz Crusode,which recounts his encounters with the legends of the New Orleans revival jazz. Fred Vigorito was on trumpet with the Easy Riders back in the 1960s, but time has not taken the vigor out of Vigorito, as we can hear from his gleeful Kid Thomas-inspired lead.
The programs on these four CDs are eclectic. There is fair share of New Orleans warhorses such as "Tiger Rag," "Saint Louis Blues," "Hindustan," "Algiers Strut," as well as such soulful hymns as "In the Upper Garden," "The Old Rugged Cross," and "In the Sweet Bye and Bye." The standards are well represented, with "Marie," "Stormy Weather," "Moonglow," "My Blue Heaven," and the like. Everything from Johannes Brahms' "Cradle Song" to Cole Porter's "C'est Magnifique." New to me was an appealing tune entitled "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain." Since no composer credits are listed, I consulted my Kinkle 0(The Complete Encyclopedia of Popular Music arid Jazz 1900-1950, for the uninitiated) and found that it was a pop song by Fred Rose, composer of "Deep Henderson" and '"Deed I Do." (No wonder I liked it.) John Royen is featured on a solo performance of Fats Waller's great stride number, "Handful of Keys."
Jean-Pierre Alessi is featured on a performance of George Lewis' "Burgundy Street Blues," and on a tenor sax, yet! As Big Bill is quoted as saying, The first time I heard him do it, I almost fell over. It took some convincing to have him record it but worth the effort, I believe." It is futile to recommend one of these sessions over the other. Save for Alesssi and Lemaire, the personnels are different, resulting in a different over-all sound. I would not want to have missed either one.
- Bill Mitchell
JAZZ JOURNAL INTERNATIONAL - British Jazz Magazine
This French band plays in the New Orleans style, as do many others on this side of the Atlantic. No doubt they have a considerable local following, and Jean Pierre Alessi, the leader, sounds to have potential as a performer on alto saxophone in the style of Capn. John Handy, as well as being a forceful tenor player. His trombonist is also effective, but the trumpet player lacks drive and forward movement and there is nothing outstanding about the rhythm section. John Royen, one of the two guests, plays lively inventive piano and Kjeld Brand, the other, blows pleasantly in the George Lewis mode.
When the band is joined by two different visitors, the whole atmosphere changes. Fred Vigorito's inspired cornet playing releases Alessi's potential and the earthy vigour of Big Bill Bissonette's trombone playing lifts the music onto a higher plane, bringing back memories of his famous recording of the December Band which featured Kid Thomas Valentine, John Handy and his idol, Jim Robinson. This is not quite on that level, but is a most satisfying session which has all the ambience of a live occasion without its disadvantages. Alessi even makes a convincing interpretation of Burgundy Street Blues on his tenor sax and the final Panama is a tour-de-force, celebrated with exuberant enthusiasm by an audience which had been admirably unobtrusive until then. Brian Wood's notes sum up my feelings exactly.
- Christopher Hillman
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