Jumpin In Irigny -
French Preservation New Orleans JB - Volume 2
with special guests Big Bill Bissonnette & Fred Vigorito
Jazz ReviewInternet Jazz Publication
The French Preservation New Orleans Jazz Band returns with
their second release on Big Bill Bissonnette's Jazz Crusade label. The
band, however, is quite different in personnel but just as exciting. Led
by reedman Jean-Pierre Alessi the band features two American visitors
in the form of trombonist Big Bill Bissonnette and his long time buddy
Fred Vigorito on cornet. The Americans have played together for decades
and really know how to turn up the heat.
The rhythm section has changed considerably since the earlier CD. The
absence of a piano dictates that the banjo player be especially versatile
and Henry Lemaire fills the role admirably. The newcomers are a couple
of the tightest players I've heard recently. Drummer Clody Gratiot has
the New Orleans style down perfectly and bassist Joel Gregoriades grabbed
my attention from the first note. The leader, in case you didn't know,
is the prime exponent of the style of the late Emmanuel "Manny"
Paul. "Manny" was a New Orleans treasure having played with
the great revivalists. Naturally, some of the tunes on the album are Manny
Paul favorites like Washington & Lee Swing and Lonesome Road.
Let's take a run through Volume One and a few highlights. Washington &
Lee Swing features a fine vocal by Big Bill and some swinging cornet passages
by Vigorito. Mama's Gone, Goodbye is a great tune at anytime and in this
instance it's taken at a slower tempo than usual featuring some growling
tenor work by the leader and a very imaginative solo by Bissonnette. Cradle
Song is the Brahms favorite that everyone knows, but seldom associates
with a sizzling jazz band. The guys turn a 150 year old lullaby into a
swinging jam. Vigorito is hot, hot, hot on this unlikely vehicle.
Back in 1949, Burl Ives and Dinah Shore both made hit records with another
unlikely melody. Lavender Blue (Dilly, Dilly) was, in this writer's opinion,
a bit of a dog back then but the French band turns it around nicely. The
showpiece is certainly Lonesome Road. It's a ten-minute gem from start
to finish with nice solos by everyone. Fred Vigorito's brilliant solo
gets an enthusiastic response from the lively audience. Henry Lemaire
and Joel Gregoriades contribute a couple of good solos too. Bill Bissonnette
takes the vocal on a tune that's been in his book for decades. The ever
popular When Your Smiling gives everyone a chance to stretch out. J-P
Alessi shows who's boss as he dominates a rip-roaring version of Kid Ory's
Get Out Of Here. The leader is featured again on the short but sweet Burgundy
Street Blues, a favorite of all revivalists.
Volume Two features the same well-rounded and exciting band with ten more
favorites. They include a passionate rendition of Love Songs Of The Nile,
a tune forever linked to the late Billie and DeDe Pierce. The husband
and wife team contributed so much to the success of Preservation Hall
and New Orleans music. Other highlights from the second tome are Dallas
Blues, Bye & Bye and a sizzling Panama. This is one of Jazz Crusade's
finest recent projects.
- Richard Bourcier
Boxells Jazz WebsiteNew
Zealand Internet Jazz Website
Having spent many pleasant hours listening to the bands previous
CDs I thought it would be right to get these two and see how they sound
with a three man, as opposed to four man, frontline. This time guesting
for them on trombone is B3 (Big Bill Bissonnette) boss of the Jazz Crusade
label. Joining him on cornet is Fred Vigorito; his name alone on a CD
would get me buying it.
Well these tracks are from a club session in Irigny (hence the title I
suppose) in France. As with all club recordings you trade off perfect
balance and sound for feel. Certainly the crowd were very enthusiastic
and listening to the CDs you can understand why as all the band from guests
and leader Jean-Pierre Alessi on saxes to the backline with Henry Lemaire
on banjo, Joel Gregoriades on bass and Clody Gratiot on drums swing with
a purpose. Now these three gentlemen of the backline need mentioning as
they make excellent contributions to both the rhythm and solo breaks,
but here the live element comes in with them at times being
a trifle over amplified.
One note on Jean-Pierre Alessi which blew me away: he started playing
only in 1993. Well if that middle-aged man can do, so can we all (if only
my wife would let me get that trombone Ive always desired maybe
I could replace B3 in the line up). Certainly his feel for New Orleans
jazz is very real and I suggest you listen to Burgundy Street Blues
to understand what I am talking about.
These CDs are a really welcome addition to my CD collection with their
verve and joi de vivre. The fact that the jazz standards are joined by
tunes rarely or even never get played in the traditional jazz style only
adds to their attractiveness.
My only trips to France so far have been in and out jobs as my interests
tend to take me to the Netherlands, Germany and Scandinavia but next time
I am in Europe I have it in mind to visit St Sauveur in Normandy where
my forefather, Sir Alan de Buxhall KG, was Captain and commander during
the reign of Edward III in the Hundred Years War. No doubt they still
have fond memories of him and his English garrison. Maybe I should venture
further south towards Lyon and find The French Preservation New Orleans
- Geoff Boxell
Just JazzBritish Jazz Magazine
One well-known and much loved British jazz musician said of my CD reviews,
"You are too kind - too nice to some awful records." That was
his opinion. Another in Australia said of my reviews - "You are the
thinking man's \sn scribe," which is nice. But it's when I come to
records like these two that I hesitate to put lingers to keyboard, |because
once again I'm thoroughly enjoying what I'm hearing and I know only too
well that some 'Just Jazz' readers hate Big Bill's work (Jazz Crusade
is his label) and in particular, his belief that live', on-the-spot jazz
recordings have a 'truth' - a realism that is infectious. Regardless of
what anyone thinks, I'm going to be 'straight-ahead'. People may again
say I'm being too kind - too nice, but Bill's live recordings have an
honesty that is beyond compare and beat by far the antiseptic atmosphere
and soulless studio productions.
So what we have here is a record of a night in a club in France last December
when Big Bill and fellow American, the Kid Thomas-inspired Fred Vigorito,
set fire to an excellent, very French New Orleans-style band and came
up with several hours of incandescent (that's fiery!) foot-stomping jazz.
These are balanced sets with well chosen tempos and a fine variety of
first class solos and vocals -they kept me listening with interest throughout.
In other words, I like them - and unlike some review CDs which I give
away after writing about them, these I'll keep because they'll bear repeated
hearings. All the Frenchmen acquit themselves brilliantly - particularly
leader Jean-Pierre Alessi, which is contrary to current opinions about
the state of French Traditional jazz.
To my ears, Fred Vigorito's work is as important as that of the late Kid
Bastien. His uniquely propulsive, highly emotional and tonally so different
work is a great joy. And a last word for B3 (as Big Bill is known) - he's
no slouch on the trombone and a great, driving asset to the ensembles.
He's also a great and creative supporter of other players - hear him behind
Vigorito on CestMagnifique for example -that's a talent very few jazzmen
- Brian Harvey
(Ed. We really do not think any 'Just Jazz' reader 'hates' Big Bill's
work; some have taken him to task over the content, but it is unfair to
say that they hate it.)
DIXIE/JAZZ & SWING—French Jazz Magazine
For a new band to have 4 CDs released on a professional American label at one time is phenomenal. But Big Bill Bissonnette the owner of the wonderful Jazz Crusade label has done it. The band, led by J-P Alessi, wants to play in the New Orleans Revival style of the 1940s which featured such musicians as Bunk Johnson and George Lewis.
The first two CDs were performed in France with guests John Royen of New Orleans, whose playing is wonderful and fantastic, and Kjeld Brandt from Denmark a clarinetist of the George Lewis school. The second sessions featuring guests Big Bill Bissonnette and Fred Vigorito were recorded in France in December 2004. This session is a surprise. I have never heard this music played like this.I have listened to it over and over. The second session is very different from the first session as it has no piano or clarinet.
The rhythm section is very good and the front line is excellent too. J-P is a powerful sax player and I was surprised by his solo styling. The first chorus would be a melody chorus and then he improvises on the second chorus. I remember long ago hearing the same style of playing in Preservation Hall. Hearing Burgundy Street Blues played on tenor sax for the first time was a marvelous surprise.
B3 has had the same playing style for a long long time: very hard-driving but very good. When Big Bill sings, it is a great show. But the best of the front linewas Fred Vigorito who has played and recorded with Bissonnette many times. He is a new star now in France. Sometimes he uses a metal hat [derby mute].
The songs are unusual. I have never heard Cradle Song and Lavender Blue and another surprising selection was Stormy Weather. . And Marie.For me the best songs were Lonesome Road and Dallas Blues. The choice of tunes was excellent as were the tempos. A good session that I can’t stop playing.
- Charles Baschung
All Music Guide—U. S. Jazz Encyclopedia
The French Preservation New Orleans Jazz Band is a pianoless quartet that features the raspy and emotional tenor and alto playing of Jean-Pierre Alessi. For this live set, the first of two CDs from the same performance, Alessi and his group are joined by cornetist Fred Vigorito and trombonist Big Bill Bissonnette. Alessi puts plenty of feeling into his playing, sometimes recalling altoist Capn. John Handy in his infusion of 1950s R&B feeling into a trad New Orleans band. Vigorito plays well while Bissonnette, who has two enthusiastic vocals, is heard throughout in top form. The repertoire is a bit inspired with a few surprises included. Highlights include a slower than usual "Mama's Gone Goodbye," the obscure "Lavender Blue," a lengthy "Lonesome Road," and J.C. Higginbotham's "Give Me Your Telephone Number."
- Scott Yanow
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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