Review: Christian Brenner in Paris

The cultured, creative pianist and his band pay tribute to Miles Davis. Michael Tucker delights in the lambent melodies and sophisticated harmonies

As summer turned to autumn, Café Laurent was packed to the proverbial rafters for a splendid two sets of music conceived as a homage to Miles Davis by Christian Brenner, the resident pianist and director of music at the long-famous venue on the Left Bank, a stone's throw from the Seine.

Brenner put together a special international quintet for the occasion (pictured right), featuring Britain's Damon Brown (t, c) and Belgium's Stéphane Mercier (as) together with regular playing partners Bruno Schorp (b) from France and Pier Paolo Pozzi (d) from Italy.

The evening was filmed: some of the performances may come to be featured on Brenner's website, and the music will also be presented live again, on December 14 at the Audi International Jazz Festival in Phnom Penh.

This was the first time I'd had the pleasure of hearing Brown (pictured left), a technically strong but also melodically gifted trumpeter whose playing was highly praised by Ian Carr and Jack Massarik. Sticking to open-horn cornet throughout, his potent sound was full and clean. The lucidity of his lines meshed well with the more diversely inflected tone and accents of the equally excellent Mercier, whose playing evinced an arresting, rhythmically subtle blend of assertive passion and filigree reflection.

Brown had flown into the gig directly from Seoul, but in the main managed to keep any sign of jet lag at bay: one of many highlights from the evening was the delicious duet he developed with Schorp on pizzicato bass during a lovely reading of I Could Write A Book. Throughout, Brenner was his customary cultured and creative self, gelling beautifully with Schorp and Pozzi in music which emphasised the classic, or earlier, side of Davis.

Lambent melody, harmonic sophistication and bluesy bite ran equally through a programme which embraced Have You Met Miss Jones, If I Were A Bell, I Could Write A Book and All The Things You Are as well as Well You Needn't, Straight No Chaser, All Blues and Blues By Five. There were also freshly cast versions of I'm Old Fashioned, In Your Own Sweet Way, On Green Dolphin Street and Stella By Starlight and, while I was surprised not to hear ’Round Midnight, it was good to be reminded that, many a year ago, Miles had cut a version of Body And Soul. If Pozzi shone on mellow brushes here, elsewhere he played with the sort of crisply articulated swing and overall dynamic fire and textural sensitivity which at times – appropriately enough – brought the great Philly Joe Jones to mind.

A memorable evening in homage to Miles, this, which was richly appreciated by the packed house. As I've asked in these pages before, how much longer do we have to wait before some enterprising promoter invites Brenner across La Manche to Britain? London, after all, is just a tad closer to Paris than Phnom Penh.

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