BRILLIANT, EXPERT, FUN: THE ANACHRONIC JAZZ BAND (Nice, July 16, 1977)

Thirty years ago and more, in a used record store, I found this disc. I was so provincial that the names on the front and back covers did not mean anything to me, but the premise of the disc fascinated me and I bought it.

That premise was splendidly unusual: to take modern jazz classics, score them for a jazz orchestra in consciously anachronistic styles — not jamming, although there were hot solos in abundance — but “styles” that were precise and expert . . . let us say, ANTHROPOLOGY as the 1925 Fletcher Henderson band would have played it, or a Monk composition as played by the Red Hot Peppers.

I had seen a number of examples of this time-travel created in the Fifties (including Phil Sunkel, Dave McKenna, and Bob Wilber) where bands took, for instance, MUSKRAT RAMBLE and scored it in “cool” or “modern” style. But the Anachronics went both forwards and backwards in the most expert and hilarious style: dazzling deft syncopated fun.

They were a working band from 1976-79 and had a reunion in 2013. Fortunately for us, many of their recordings have been collected on three CDs — a two-disc set of their 1976-79 recordings, below —

and their reunion, BACK IN TOWN, which I reviewed here.

This spring, a friend sent me a video of their forty-minute set at the Nice Jazz Festival in July 1977. Excerpts from this performance have been shared on YouTube for more than a decade, but this copy is clear and complete.

And joyous. And wise. Only musicians who not only know the whole continuum of jazz and can play it superbly could make this happen.

So I present it to you: even if you have seen it before, you will find it uplifting. Think of a clarinet trio on BERNIE’S TUNE, or Louis playing ASK ME NOW in his 1933 Victor style, or YARDBIRD SUITE as a thrilling showcase for clarinet and recorder, JORDU reimagined as early Ellington with a tuba solo and echoes of Cecil Scott, ANTHROPOLOGY played as if by a superbly free Morton group, BLUE MONK with a tango interlude, I HOPE GABRIEL LIKES MY MUSIC as if Louis had stopped by in Camden, New Jersey, for the final Moten session.

And once you have admired the whole delightful conception, the just-right ensemble work and the glowing horn soloists, step back and admire the heartbeat pulse of the band, that rhythm section. I find it difficult to restrict my enthusiasm . . . and you will feel, hear, and see why.

ANACHRONIC JAZZ BAND (La grande parade du jazz, Nice, July 16, 1977): Patrick Artero, trumpet, arrangements; Daniel Barda, trombone; Marc Richard, clarinet, arrangements; André Villeger, tenor saxophone, arrangements; Daniel Huck, vocal, clarinet, alto saxophone; Philippe Baudoin, piano, arrangements; Gérard Gervois, brass bass; Patrick Diaz, banjo; Bernard Laye, drums. Göran Eriksson, recorder added on YARDBIRD SUITE and GABRIEL.

‘ROUND MIDNIGHT (Huck, vocal) / BERNIE’S TUNE / ASK ME NOW / YARDBIRD SUITE / JORDU / ANTHROPOLOGY / BLUE MONK / I HOPE GABRIEL LIKES MY MUSIC (Huck, vocal).

What an extraordinary orchestra they are. Unforgettable. Thanks to Monsieurs Artero, Richard, Baudoin, and Jean-Francois Bonnel for making this post possible.

May your happiness increase!

2 responses to “BRILLIANT, EXPERT, FUN: THE ANACHRONIC JAZZ BAND (Nice, July 16, 1977)

  1. danyel nicholas

    These are my favourite European Jazz musicians. Normally ‘anachronism’ is the worst insult as it applies to all sorts of vulgarities such as playing Mood Indigo on a Buffet RC clarinet (with Coltranesque licks), Brahms with wire strings or even Marais on a cello. But the other way ’round? Didn’t Couperin prefer clavecins a hundred years old, Bach ancient forms or Gaultier lutes from the early 16th c? Wasn’t Ben Webster’s horn quite ‘obsolete’ in the 60s while his style was fresh as ever? How about Johnny Guarnieri playing ultra hip chamber music by Artie Shaw on a harpsichord? Oscar Peterson and his clavichord? Would any application of counterpoint be a out of date regression in modern jazz? All this does not explain why the outlandish concept of the Anachronics worked so well. It certainly is their beautiful playing as individuals and thorough rehearsal ethics. But most of all I think that Pierre Richard’s scores are the key. I don’t know how he did it, but they don’t sound strange or farcical at all. Rather they expose the very close links people like Monk or Bird had with Jazz history. The phrasing is often quite modified and the comping style in generally would not have been approved by the composers. But the French have a tendency to pull things through, like when a brand of herbal infusion is called ‘Les 2 Marmottes’ you actually see a nicely drawn picture of two marmots, their names (Yodie et Grison) are given, one of them smokes a pipe and the other holds a mug, presumably containing some of their delicious tea. You might also learn that this particular brand was originated by a pre Gaulish tribe in the late bronze age. That’s how this band worked.

  2. Honored, Danyel. YOU should be blogging!

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