Special guests John Royen & Kjeld Brandt Vol 1

Jazz Crusade JCCD-3107 2005 11 tracks 76 min

In The Sweet Bye & Bye, Hindustan, Chinatown My Chinatown, In The Upper Garden, Ice Cream, The Old Rugged Cross, A Handful Of Keys, Sail Along Silvery Moon, Shine, Algiers Strut, My Blue Heaven


Special guests John Royen & Kjeld Brandt Vol 2

Jazz Crusade JCCD-31078 2005 11 tracks 77 min

Blue Eyes Crying The Rain, Melanie's Boogie, Big Bad Bully, Uptown Bumps, Four Leaf Clover, Sister Kate, Tiger Rag, Saint Louis Blues, The Second Line, Should I, The Darktown Strutter's Ball

The antagonism betwixt the English and the French goes back as far as 1066. In the past I have conceded that they make passable coffee, though I'd balance that with beer that truly reflects the nickname of 'piss' (ok, so some of the Alsatian beer is passable, but then isn't Alsace really part of Germany?). When addicted to the weed I used to enjoy their cigarettes as being flavourful, though again, I'd balance that against the fact that their food was garlic soaked and under cooked. I have always found their idiosyncratic cars 'interesting' and have been filled with joy at their love of 'Le Rocker' motorcycling habits, especially as I had been one of the Rockers they so admire. Now I have to admit that they can play good swinging New Orleans jazz as well as the Brits, albeit with American pianist, John Royen and Danish clarinettist Kjeld Brandt to help them out. Only a fellow Englishman will know how it hurts to admit that!

I had come across Jean-Pierre Alessi playing with another French jazz band, Sweet Mary Cat but apart from guest Kjeld Brandt the other band members are all new to me. Perhaps it will be best to introduce them to you, in case you too are unfamiliar with them. Jean-Pierre himself is a Manny Paul disciple and plays both tenor and alto sax. Given the four-man front line, the tenor gets the most use, though tonally at times it gets lost under the trombone. Given a bit of free air, or a solo break you get to hear the man play some innovative jazz. Trumpeter Alain Martien actually reminds me of New Zealand's Lindsay Meech only better (how's that for a compliment?). Frederic Espinoux manages to make his trombone produce a sound like an excited bubble bee in a bottle and makes the CDs worth buying just to listen to him. Then there is Henry Lemaire whose ringing banjo style brought to mind Hugh Rayne, late of Bob Wallis Storyville Jazz Band and Cy Laurie's Jazz Band. Guillaume Gerdill and Helin McFly on bass and drums I almost dismissed as being too discreet until I played the CD on my home system rather than my portable CD player: I really must get a better quality one than the El Cheapo job I have at present. John Royen on piano is a revelation as when he needs to he provides sold second line backing, but when given a break or a solo number (A Handful of Keys) he really gets into his stride. Kjeld Brandt? What more can I say than I already have? One of the world's finest New Orleans clarinetists.

The tunes are a good mix of jazz standards and little heard numbers all squeezed long enough to extract all of the juice but not over squeezed; so no pith. There are pacey numbers, slow numbers and some in between and all of them good to listen to. At times I felt the 4 man frontline was getting a might crowded and felt that a bit more elbow room wouldn't have gone amiss, but one thing for certain: the band sound as it they enjoying playing together and are having fun doing it. I've enjoyed listening to the CDs for the past two weeks. I'm now going to lend them to my old dad. Knowing the type of New Orleans jazz he likes best, I doubt I will see them back for a while.



Jazz Crusade JCCD-3110, 12 tracks, 76 min

Washington & Lee Swing, Mama’s Gone Goodbye, Cradle Song, Lavender Blue, Get Out Of Here, Lonesome Road, When You’re Smiling, Connard Boogie, Burgundy Street Blues, Give Me Your Telephone Number, Love Me Tender, Bugle Boy Match




Jazz Crusade JCCD-3111, 10 tracks, 76 min

Move The Body Over, Moonglow, C’est Manifique, Dallas Blues, Song Of The Islands, Bye & Bye, Stormy Weather, Marie, Love Song Of The Nile, Panama

Having spent many pleasant hours listening to the band’s previous CDs I thought it would be right to get these two and see how they sound with a three man, as opposed to four man, frontline. This time guesting for them on trombone is B3 (Big Bill Bissonnette) boss of the Jazz Crusade label. Joining him on cornet is Fred Vigorito; his name alone on a CD would get me buying it.

Well these tracks are from a club session in Irigny (hence the title I suppose) in France. As with all club recordings you trade off perfect balance and sound for feel. Certainly the crowd were very enthusiastic and listening to the CDs you can understand why as all the band from guests and leader Jean-Pierre Alessi on saxes to the backline with Henry Lemaire on banjo, Joel Gregoriades on bass and Clody Gratiot on drums swing with a purpose. Now these three gentlemen of the backline need mentioning as they make excellent contributions to both the rhythm and solo breaks, but here the ‘live’ element comes in with them at times being a trifle over amplified.

One note on Jean-Pierre Alessi which blew me away: he started playing only in 1993. Well if that middle-aged man can do, so can we all (if only my wife would let me get that trombone I’ve always desired maybe I could replace B3 in the line up). Certainly his feel for New Orleans jazz is very real and I suggest you listen to ‘Burgundy Street Blues’ to understand what I am talking about.

These CDs are a really welcome addition to my CD collection with their verve and joi de vivre. The fact that the jazz standards are joined by tunes rarely or even never get played in the traditional jazz style only adds to their attractiveness.

My only trips to France so far have been in and out jobs as my interests tend to take me to the Netherlands, Germany and Scandinavia but next time I am in Europe I have it in mind to visit St Sauveur in Normandy where my forefather, Sir Alan de Buxhall KG, was Captain and commander during the reign of Edward III in the Hundred Years War. No doubt the residentsstill have fond memories of him and his English garrison. Maybe I should venture further south towards Lyon and find The French Preservation New Orleans Jazz Band and go ‘Jumpin’ in Irigny’.



LIVE AT SEASIDE JAZZKLUB – with Fred Vigorito & Kjeld Brandt

Seaside Jazzklub SJKCD02 2008 11 tracks 69 min


Running Wild, Over The Waves, Uptown Bumps, Old Rugged Cross, Tiger Rag, I’m Alone Because I Love You, Ice Cream, Laissez Bons Temps Rouler, Algiers Strut, In The Upper Garden, Panama


On first hearing this CD my first thought was; ‘The old man will love this one and I’m going to have problems getting it back off him’. Then I remembered that my dad had died two weeks before. One of the many things my father gave me was the love of traditional jazz, and this CD is typical of the style he particularly liked, and thus playing it will always remind me of him.

The sole frontline player of the French Preservation New Orleans Jazz Band on this CD is saxophonist Jean-Pierre Alessi playing both alto & tenor sax (mostly tenor). Completing the front line are American Fred Vigorito on cornet, one of my favourite horn players who is a stalwart of the Crusade jazz label and a regular player with Jean-Pierre, and on clarinet Dane Kjeld Brandt of New Orleans Delight. These two are world class players, but Jean-Pierre is not outshone by them, though at times he does get lost on doing a bumble bee impersonation. In the sleeve notes Fred says that from the first tune they played together for a sound check he thought to himself; ‘this is going to be a great week.’ And going by this CD it was.

Whilst I find all the tunes to be well played, ‘Uptown Bumps’ gave me goose bumps, especially Fred’s muted cornet work and ‘Old Rugged Cross’ I felt was an exceptional rendition (and I have dozens of others to compare it with). Fred ends the tune with the call of: ‘Amen’ and that sums that track up. All three frontline players gave the tune the emotional feel that you only normally get when actually singing the words. It sounds silly, I know, but usually with this tune you can appreciate the rendition but it is only when you sing the lyrics that you get a strong emotional wrench. With this version you feel the spirituality through the playing. Nuts, still sounds silly. Just buy the CD and listen for yourself. Copies can be bought by either emailing or by visiting