A unique concept and great arrangements. Jim Wilke, radio host
This is music that goes down easy. They are well rehearsed and there are many fine solos. Robert Rusch, Cadence Magazine
Terry Vosbein’s jazz interpretations of classic French melodies made famous by Édith Piaf, Charles Aznavour, Charles Trenet and Jacques Brel.
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Tom Artwick alto sax
Don Aliquo baritone sax
Chris Magee trumpet
Rich Willey trumpet
Tom Lundberg trombone
Rick Simerly trombone
Tony Nalker piano
Rusty Holloway contrabass
Keith Brown drums
I feel fortunate to have spent many extended periods of time living and composing in Paris. Piaf, Brel, Trenet and Aznavour were as much a part of my experiences as Hemingway, Picasso and Stravinsky.
Each day as I strolled through that magical city I would hear their songs, from street musicians, from club performers, from whistling pedestrians. For this project I set out to recast those familiar melodies in a cool jazz mold, retaining the spirt of the originals, but embedding them with my own swinging vision. I examined over a hundred poignant songs before deciding on these. It was impressive that so many classic French songs were composed by the very performers who made them famous.
Upon completing an even dozen new arrangements, and totally under the spell of these great songs, I decided to compose an original work. I spent a recent summer living in old Montmartre. I tried to capture the sounds, sights and smells of that unique village on the hill overlooking Paris in this new Chanson Française, Dans le vieux Montmartre.
Once the music was arranged the real fun began. The notes that I write are just dots on a page until the performers turn them into a living, breathing and swinging organism. It was a thrill to have these good friends and seasoned veterans of the jazz world bringing my creations to life.
And it was a bit scary. We had just one shot at each selection. There were no second takes in this concert/recording session. The virtuosic playing and superb improvisatory talents of these nine musicians is astounding and I couldn’t be happier with the results.
So sit back, prepare your favorite French beverage (mine is café crème) and enjoy these fun selections. Toe tapping is sure to follow. Dancing is optional.
— Terry Vosbein
There’s something about the music of France that strikes a romantic chord in almost every heart. Even when writing about anguish, loneliness and ennui, the French have a way of encasing those emotions within beguiling melodies that somehow make the pain seem more endurable. It is this singular blend of gallic romance and sorrow that animates La Chanson Francaise, the newest CD by Virginia-based composer / arranger Terry Vosbein who leads an earnest and well-spoken nonet (also his ally of choice on an earlier album, Come and Get It!)
It was while living and working in Paris that Vosbein warmly embraced the music of that city and decided to recast some of its more seductive melodies into a jazz framework to further enhance their intrinsic charm. After narrowing a long list of choices to an even dozen, Vosbein added a theme of his own, “Dans le Vieux Montmartre,” to make it a baker’s dozen. Several of the melodies will be familiar to American listeners, as they were transposed into such popular songs as “What Now My Love,” “Beyond the Sea,” “I Wish You Love,” “Under Paris Skies” and of course “La Vie en Rose,” a mega-hit in this country for French songstress Edith Piaf in 1947.
Besides Piaf, there are songs here by Charles Trenet (four), Jacques Brel (two), Michel Emer and Charles Aznavour —but none by Michel Legrand. Trenet wrote “La Mer” (Beyond the Sea) and “Qe Reste t’il de Nos Amours” (I Wish You Love), Hubert Giraud and Jean Drejac “Sous le Ciel de Paris” (Under Paris Skies), which lowers the album’s curtain. The ensemble opens with a swashbuckling rendition of Gilbert Becaud / Pierre Leroyer’s “Et Maintenant” (What Now My Love), underlined by Rusty Holloway‘s resonant bass, which sets the tone for everything to follow. And what follows is by and large delightful, thanks to Vosbein’s impressive charts and ardent blowing by the nonet, each of whose members is a productive soloist as well as a tenacious team player. As for swinging, it doesn’t come much heavier than on “Sous le Ciel de Paris,” Brel’s “Quand on n’a Que L’Amour” or Trenet’s “Menilmontant” and “La Mer.” There’s a Kai and J.J. vibe to Emer’s “L’accordeoniste,” a Basie feel to Charles Dumont’s “Non, Je ne Regrette Rien” (with ex-Army Blues stalwart Tony Nalker deftly shadowing the Count).
In closing, a word about the recording itself. Although no date or venue is given, the album was more than likely taped during a concert at Vosbein’s home base, the College of William & Mary. While one might assume that playing so well in front of an audience would be a source of pride, not embarrassment, it seems that every effort has been made (not always successfully) to erase applause after solos, and none is heard after any of the selections. Why? That’s a good question, as the performance is about as error-free as might have been the case in a studio. So why try and hide the fact that it was live? We may never know. Be that as it may, La Chanson Francaise is a flavorful bonbon that is sure to gladden the heart and soul of any Francophile as well as those who simply appreciate melodious, swinging and well-played contemporary jazz.
Track Listing: En Maintenant; Quand on n’a Que L’Amour; L’Accordeoniste; Menilmontant; La Vie en Rose; La Boheme; Dans le Vieux Montmartre; Ne me Quitte Pas; La Mer; Que Reste t’il de Nos Amours; Boum; Non, Je ne Regrette Rien; Sous le Ciel de Paris.
Personnel: Terry Vosbein: conductor, composer, arranger; Chris Magee: trumpet; Rich Willey: trumpet; Tom Artwick: alto sax; Don Aliquo: baritone sax; Tom Lundberg: trombone; Rick Simerly: trombone; Tony Nalker: piano; Rusty Holloway: bass; Keith Brown: drums.
Throughout his career, Terry Vosbein has been a major composer, arranger, and educator. His past recording projects have included a suite for a nonet (Come and Get It), Progressive Jazz 2009 which features the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra, arrangements of the music from Sweeney Todd (Fleet Street), a collection of Yuletide favorites for violin and piano (Stradivarius Christmas) and jazz interpretations of movie music (Jazz Scenes).
Inspired by the time he has spent in Paris, La Chanson Française is comprised of a dozen songs that originated from France plus one of his own originals, “Dans le vieux Montmartre.” Vosbein utilizes a small-big band comprised of two trumpets, two trombones, alto and baritone saxophones, and a rhythm section. His arrangements often make the nonet sound like a big band.
The songs, which were made famous by such luminaries as Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Charles Aznavour and Charles Trenet, are full of rich melodies. The arrangements retain the themes but place them in the context of a modern and swinging jazz group. Along the way, each of the musicians (other than drummer Keith Brown) has opportunities to solo, often interacting with the full ensemble.
“El Maintenant (What Now My Love)” begins the program by having the melody stated by bassist Rusty Holloway while the horns play punctuations behind him. Holloway and trombonist Tom Lundberg are featured throughout the piece. “Quand on n’a que l’amour (If We Only Have Love)” has some spirited ensembles and fine spots for trumpeter Chris Magee and baritonist Don Aliquo. “L’Accordeoniste” starts out slow and somber, almost like a funeral hymn, before its mood and tempo completely change. It becomes a light-hearted romp for trombonists Lundberg and Rick Simerly that is a little reminiscent of J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding in the 1950s.
The familiar melody of “Ménilmontant” is taken uptempo with plenty of infectious ensembles and excellent solos from baritonist Aliquo (who recalls Gerry Mulligan at times), trumpeter Rich Willey and altoist Tom Artwick. One of the most famous of all French melodies, “La Vie En Rose,” is given a moody but respectful treatment. Trombonist Lundberg plays the classic melody with a great deal of warmth (check out the inventive harmonies behind him) before taking a melodic improvisation. “La Bohème” follows up with some appealing ensembles and a bit of Aliquo’s baritone.
Terry Vosbein’s “Dans le vieux Montmartre” is an exciting piece that swings hard and is a modern day classic that fits in perfectly with the vintage material. The ballad “Ne me quitte pas (If You Go Away)” is performed as an alto feature for Tom Artwick who caresses the beautiful melody. “La Mer (Beyond the Sea),” which was made famous by Bobby Darin, is transformed into a feature for the two trumpeters who play memorable harmonies, take heated solos, trade off, and interact with each other.
“Que reste t’il de nos amours (I Wish You Love)” puts the spotlight on pianist Tony Nalker with commentary from the ensembles. The playful theme of “Boum” is catchy. All six horn players and pianist Nalker get to make short statements. “Non, je ne regrette rien” is given a Count Basie feel in both the arrangement and some of the playing of Nalker. La Chanson Française concludes perfectly with a joyful treatment of “Sous le ciel de Paris (Under Paris Skies).”
Listeners who love these timeless French melodies and the sound of a swinging big band will find much to enjoy on Terry Vosbein’s La Chanson Française.
Scott Yanow, jazz journalist/historian and author of 11 books including Swing, The Jazz Singers, Jazz On Film and Jazz On Record 1917-76
TRES BON…Terry Vosbein: La Chanson Francaise
Here’s a clever idea; take some French melodies made famous by the likes of Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel and others, and swing them with a hip jazz combo. The horn heavy team of Tom Artwick/as, Don Aliquo/bari, Chris Magee/tp, Rich Willey/tp, Tom Lundberg/tb and Rick Simerly/tb create a West Coast cool and warm interpretation of pieces like “Beyond The Sea (La Mer)” and “La Vie En Rose” with a toe tapping rhythm section of Tony Nalker/p, Rusty Hollowyay/b and Keith Brown/dr. You get a hip bass line on “Et Maintenant (What Now My Love)” and some gliding reeds that flow around Nalker’s piano on “Quand On N’A Que L’Amour.” Vintage boogie woogie and swing brings out the Lindy Hoppers on “Boum” while a chamber feel of the muted horns create Monet impressions during “La Vie En Rose.” Aliquo’s bari is dreamy on “LAccordeoniste” and bops on “Dans Le Vieux Montmartre.” A wonderful bon mot.
TERRY VOSBEIN is a Professor in the Music Department at Washington and Lee University who is a talented and wonderfully creative arranger. He has produced several interesting albums over the last decade, including one of the best big band albums in recent years, Fleet Street, a big band jazz interpretation of the music from Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd. For La Chanson Française (Max Frank Music – 006), he has turned his attention to popular songs that were written by French composers, many of which have had widespread popularity on these shores, such as “If You Go Away,” “La vie en rose,” “What Now My Love,” “I Wish You Love,” “Beyond the Sea” and “Under Paris Skies.” Others will be familiar to fans of French singers like Edith Piaf, Charles Trenet and Charles Aznavour, tunes like “L’Accordeoniste,” “La Bohème,” and “Non, je ne regrette rien.” Vosbein, who has spent much time living in Paris, has also included a delightful original piece inspired by his time in the City of Light, “Dans le vieux Montmartre.” For this collection, he has opted to write charts for a mid-sized group, a nonet comprising Tom Artwick on alto sax, Don Aliquo on baritone sax, Chris Magee and Rich Wiley on trumpets, Tom Lundberg and Rick Simerly on trombones, Tony Nalker on piano, Rusty Holloway on bass and Keith Brown on drums. The group has the feeling of a larger band, with the freedom of a small group where each of the players is given ample solo space. Vosbein has created an inspired album with charts that are instantly accessible, swing like mad, and demand to be heard again and again.
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