Tag Archives: Bernard Laye

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!

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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.