...engineer Tony Baldwin has done a fantastic digital restoration job in rendering...
Peter Marsh 2002-11-20
Though France was a haven for beboppers like Kenny Clarke and later provided a home for free jazzers like Sunny Murray, Anthony Braxton and the Art Ensemble of Chicago, the French contribution to the jazz oeuvre has been either neglected or negligible (the Hot Club aside), depending on your viewpoint. Though this re-issue of pianist Henri Renaud's sides for the Saturne label (nothing to do with Sun Ra, by the way) is unlikely to rewrite the history books, it's a strong reminder that though jazz was the sound of Black America, there was much valuable music being made in Europe.
Recorded in 1951 for five rare as hen's teeth picture discs, this group (here in various trio, quartet and sextet formations) did feature two visiting Chicagoans, guitarist Jimmy Gourley and tenorist Sandy Mosse and was originally put together for a festival date. On a mixture of standards and originals, the sundry lineups display a relaxed, propulsive swing (mainly down to the legendary bassist Pierre Michelot) which provides springboards for some fine solos. Mosse is very much from the Lester Young school; his blurred tone and urbane, eloquent solos are enjoyable enough, but the star here is Belgian tenorist Bobby Jaspar. Recorded before his move to the US a few years later (where he played with the likes of Chet Baker, Miles Davis and Kenny Burrell before dying tragically at the age of 37), Jaspar shares Mosse's admiration for Young, but filtered through the airy harmonic interrogations favoured by Warne Marsh. His playing is a model of poise and taste, with a luscious upper register tone that hits the spot.
Renaud swings hard (easy to see why he was popular with visiting American jazzers in search of a rhythm section), while Gourley's Charlie Christian inspired solos are enjoyably fluid. The band were obviously enjoying themselves; Mosse and Jaspar's brief exchanges are delightful, and on "Lady Be Bad" quotes from "Dixie" are tossed all over the place with glee by Gourley and Renaud. The original 1951 picture discs were appalingly bad quality, though engineer Tony Baldwin has done a fantastic digital restoration job in rendering this valuable, unpretentious session listenable; half an hour of Gallic bop at its finest.