Christian Garros et son Orchestre – Jazz-Danse Nr. 1 – French Columbia Records – EP ESDF – 1218 – EMI/Columbia – France –
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Pulling records off the shelf tonight, running into sounds of French Big Band from the 1950s. Lest you think Jazz is the sole property of the U.S. and that the seeming lack of interest in it is confined to America, look East. Jazz is just as popular in Paris as ever – big bands never really went away. France has produced some stellar musicians – and if you check out some of the Ex-Pat players who settled in Paris in the 1950s and 60s, their sidemen on some very memorable sessions were some of the bright lights of the French Jazz scene. In fact, Europe, and many parts of Asia, are still very fertile grounds for Jazz.
So that brings me over to checking out this circa 1957 ep by the drummer/bandleader Christian Garros and a band he led in the mid-1950s, prior to becoming one of the founding members of the legendary Jacques Loussier Trio (the Play Bach series that went on for decades) as well as the Paris Jazz Trio. He also collaborated on a number of sessions with both French artists and American players and got his start as drummer for the famous Jacques Helian in the 1940s.
Don’t know who the players are on this session, but the arrangements are by Guy Michelot (another collaborator with Garros) and have a certain Gerry Mulligan/Stan Kenton/Claude Thornhill/Tadd Dameron vibe to them (with a nod to Billy May and Nelson Riddle), which grabbed my attention right away. Because French Jazz was woven into the mainstream, almost from the start, the repertoire for many of these groups runs the gamut from deep and probing to strictly corn. One hand washed the other and it was a healthy trade-off that has kept the whole thing alive all these years.
I mean, for example – prior to the release of this ep, Garros released an album a year earlier of Jazz Impressions of Elvis Presley, and the first two tracks on side one of this ep are borderline Standards (Joe Reisman and Sammy Fain). So you get the idea they understood that the audience was wide.
But for now – I’m not going to touch the Presley album, but rather dive into this ep, which is doing the trick for a Sunday night ahead of another insane week.
Check it out.