JAZZOLA / DORIZ: Fanfreluche. AZZOLA: Double Scotch. Pich’nette. ELLINGTON-CARNEY-MILLS: Rockin’ in Rhythm. DUKE: Autumn in New York. Taking a Chance on Love. SILVER: Psychedelic Sally. BURGE: Portrait of Jennie. MULLIGAN: Walkin’ Shoes. TIZOL: Perdido. G. & I. GERSHWIN: The Man I Love. DAVIS: Little Willie Leaps. MAYFIELD: Please Send Me Someone to Love. AZZOLA-FOSSET: Lina’s Blues / Marcel Azzola, acc; Dany Doriz, vib; Georges Arvanitas, pno; Marc Fosset, gtr; Patricia Lebeugle, bs; Richard Portier, dm / Frémeaux & Associés FA 8555
You could describe this as a fun retro-swing session except for the fact that one of the two stars of the album is an accordion player, and except for Art van Damme, American jazz has had very few of these. Mostly it’s the French, Italians and Swedes who play that instrument, and Marcel Azzola is clearly one of the better ones.
There’s not a lot to say about the individual pieces per se, except perhaps that, being French, Azzola’s Double Scotch sounds like a cousin of Toots Thielemans’ old waltz tune Bluesette. Indeed, if one peruses the titles on this album, one will find a preponderance of older jazz and pop tunes, ranging from Duke Ellington’s 1931 Rockin’ in Rhythm to such pop standards as Autumn in New York, Taking a Chance on Love, The Man I Love and Portrait of Jennnie as well as Juan Tizol’s Perdido and such later jazz standards as Horace Silver’s Psychedelic Sally, Gerry Mulligan’s Walkin’ Shoes and Miles Davis’ Little Willie Leaps.
And yes, indeed, this band does indeed leap! No “soft jazz” here, despite the overall quiet profile of the group, but exciting, swinging jazz, played with love and enthusiasm. Despite the small group size and sound profile, their version of Rockin’ in Rhythm swings as hard as Duke’s later arrangement of it from the 1960s. George Arvanitas’ piano also swings, nicely complementing Azzola’s accordion and Doriz’ vibes. Patricia Lebeugle is a driving bassist, and Richard Portier’s drums fill in nicely, sounding like a somewhat less aggressive version of Jo Jones. I especially liked their rendition of Taking a Chance on Love.
Mind you, neither Azzola nor Doriz are going to knock your socks off. Their improvisations are solid but not innovative, but it’s the overall ambience of the album, combined with the very fine material, that makes such a good impression. In fact, I felt that guitarist Marc Fosset was a better improviser than either of the album’s stars, and pianist Arvanitas is not far behind.
The album definitely shifts in a different direction when they get to Psychedelic Sally, one of Silver’s funkiest tunes, played here with a light touch. The band revels in the contrast between the funky opening melody and the fast-moving, swinging alternate theme; Fosset’s solo is particularly humorous in a tongue-in-cheek manner. Azzola plays a very nice solo on Portrait of Jenny in double time. In Perdido, Azzola and Doriz play a wonderful chorus in improvised counterpoint, one of the album’s highlights. In The Man I love, the tempo surprisingly shifts from ballad-slow to jump-tune fast after the full statement of the theme, and Azzola is really good here (as is Fosset, not only in his solo but in his springy rhythm playing as well).
A real surprise on this album is Percy Mayfield’s soul hit, Please Send Me Someone to Love, taken as a sultry ballad by the group while the closer, Lina’s Blues, is a nice jump tune by Azzola and Fosset. All in all, a delightful album of French jazz, beautifully conceived and executed.
—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley
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