That’s French, and it means “I would like a CD.” Your pronunciation doesn’t matter, but your comprehension of those words in this context will bring pleasure.
JAZZ LIVES hasn’t suddenly turned into Swing Berlitz, but those French words are your passport to Paradise, as Sidney Bechet would say. Paradise is defined as a wholly new CD — and wholly new kind of CD — by the Master, Jean-Francois Bonnel. Before I explain in words, perhaps some excerpts from the music would be even better.
Now, a little history. I had heard Jean-Francois Bonnel on a variety of vinyl and CD issues, playing reeds alongside some of the greatest hot musicians — standing out but never over-assertively.
But I still was unprepared for his intense swing and lyrical improvisations — on clarinet, on tenor, on cornet — when I first heard him at the Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival in 2009. He could wail a gutty blues in the spirit of Johnny Dodds, swing out like Kenny Davern, create a tenor ballad that sounded much like Don Byas, play cornet in the best Keynote manner. His inventiveness seemed limitless.
Finding myself in the hotel elevator with him one evening at a later Whitley Bay weekend, I intruded on his solitude (he is a very quiet man in person) and said, “Monsieur Bonnel, you are a master!” (He looked embarrassed.) “You play with wonderful bands — but I hope someday that you will make a CD with just a rhythm section.” He smiled and said, “Perhaps someday,” the elevator opened, and he was saved from yet another fan who Wanted Something. I think he was relieved that the elevator only goes three flights in the Village Newcastle.
I thought little of the incident — aside from thinking I should restrain my impulses somewhat — but then I found myself the lucky owner of a new Jean-Francois Bonnel CD where he led a quartet. It’s all I had hoped for. I can’t take credit for the inspiration, but the music is joyously on target.
Bonnel flies on clarinet — reminding me of his idol Davern in his late Arbors period, with a lovely clear tone and a fluid but restrained conception. He doesn’t aim for the highest notes on the instrument to prove it can be done, and unlike Davern, his solos — although logical — are never a series of predictable motives strung together. The repertoire is extensive — the familiar NO ONE ELSE BUT YOU (recalling Braff and Louis) and Bob Wilber’s take on LIMEHOUSE BLUES, WEQUASSET WAIL, but there are surprises in the middle, among them Ornette Coleman’s THE BLESSING.
The young musicians on this date are all new to me — in fact, they are Bonnel’s students and proteges — but there is no sense of Gulliver among the Liliputians. Felix Hunot, guitar, Olivier Lalauze, string bass, and Stephane “Zef” Richard, drums, sound like mature players, able to follow Bonnel’s twisting lines or to work beautifully as soloists and as a cohesive rhythm section. And as a bonus, Claire Marlange sings with subtlety and feeling (in French) on J’AI MARRE DE L’AMOUR (Fud Livingston’s I’M THROUGH WITH LOVE — happily, the French lyrics keep “frigidaire”) and SI J’ETAIS UNE CIGARETTE. KARY’S TRANSE and RONNIE’S TUNE (a romp on I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS) are very Tristano-like, from its tumbling unison line to the way the solos overlap one another. Like Ruby Braff, Bonnel has a fine varied awareness of the possibilities of the smallest group — using duets as a way of breaking up the potential monotony of head-solo-jammed ensemble. PLEASE, for instance, pairs clarinet and bass most effectively. LENA FROM PALESTEENA builds in intensity; THE BLESSING. in Bonnel’s hands, is lyrical rather than angular, a series of musings opening out of one another to form a performance that would have pleased Pee Wee Russell in his last decade; Davern’s LAMENT starts calmly but takes on echoes of a funeral procession; WEQUASSET WAIL sprints from start to finish. The result is a thoroughly varied and delightful hour of music.
Que votre bonheur augmente.