Tag Archives: Bernard Laye

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!

THE IMPROBABLE MADE BEAUTIFUL (1977)

What if?

The Anachronic Jazz Band in 2012

The Anachronic Jazz Band in 2012

I hope all JAZZ LIVES readers are familiar with the Anachronic Jazz Band — loosely translated, that’s “going against time” — a beautifully-rehearsed and inspiring jazz ensemble that plays modern jazz standards in the styles of the Twenties and Thirties.  With sincerity, accuracy, and wit they not only imagine worlds that never existed but translate those worlds into glorious music.  The AJB is a joyously playful band but also an exact one; they don’t just play music in a vaguely historical style; rather they take, perhaps, a Mingus composition and reimagine it as a Luis Russell recording.  They admire and they do not satirize.

They began in 1976 as a nine-piece orchestra led by pianist Philippe Baudoin and multi-instrumentalist Marc Richard, made several inimitable recordings, and then the members went their separate ways — reuniting in 2013.  Here ‘s my review of that CD.  And their website and Facebook page.

I want everyone to admire a particular AJB performance: a July 16, 1977 rendition — recorded and televised at the Nice Jazz Festival (“La Grande Parade du Jazz”) — of Thelonious Monk’s ballad ASK ME NOW.

Monk’s first recording, 1951, with Al McKibbon, bass; Art Blakey, drums:

But where Monk’s original is both passionate and spiky, the AJB reimagined this lovely ballad as played by Louis Armstrong (Louis, in this case, being Patrick Artero) with equally touching solos by Daniel Huck on alto saxophone and Philippe Baudoin on piano.

Patrick Artero, trumpet; Daniel Barda, trombone; Marc Richard, alto saxophone; André Villéger, tenor saxophone;  Daniel Huck, alto saxophone; Philippe Baudoin, piano; Patrick Diaz, banjo; Gérard Gervois, brass bass; Bernard Laye, drums.

Ricky Riccardi, who lives Louis in his waking hours and dreams Louis in the three or four hours he’s allowed to sleep, would tell us that Louis indeed had a Monk record in his library — and transferred it to tape, his highest tribute.  Who knows that the two men didn’t cross paths in 1941 or 1942 or later?  But the AJB doesn’t simply write this as a musical science-fiction story; their rendition of ASK ME NOW sends love all around: to Monk, to Louis, to anyone with ears.

It gives me great pleasure to know that such things are possible.

May your happiness increase!

AGAINST THE CURRENT

Jazz has never quite shaken the notion that newer is better.  Musician C, born in 1956, is an improvement on B, born in 1936, and we are affectionate about A, born in 1916, while casting kindly eyes at his shortcomings.  And these assumptions creep into the critical language, as if playing a “harmonically sophisticated” chord was more “advanced” than a seventh.  Perhaps this ideology has something to do with our desire for novelty, our short attention spans — listeners getting bored with perfection.  Yes, artists do stand on the shoulders of previous generations — but such reasoning is ultimately limiting. 

As my counter-truth, I present four performances by the Anachronic Jazz Band, recorded at the Nice Jazz Festival on July 16, 1977.  The AJB hasn’t existed since 1980, which is a pity: we always need such romping enlightenment.  Its members were Patrick Artero, trumpet; Daniel Barda, trombone; Marc Richard, André Villéger, Daniel Huck, clarinet; Philippe Baudoin, piano; Patrick Diaz, banjo; Gérard Gervois, brass bass;  Bernard Laye, drums.  Goran Eriksson sits in on recorder on the third performance.

The band’s comic spirit is witty and knowing; the music isn’t mean-spirited or broadly knockabout.  You’ll see!

Heartfelt evidence that “progress” in jazz is illusory; rather, art is a Mobius strip, where beginnings and endings cease to matter.   ASK ME NOW would have gladdened the hearts of both Thelonious and Louis.  Bless every one of them.