Although this three-CD box set is under the name of Francoise Hardy, most of the material is by the French guitarist Sacha Distel, recorded before he became an international singing star.
The Hardy CD, her 1962 debut, starting with her big hit Tous Les Garcons Et Les Filles, is a collection of wistful, understated songs with a pop/folksy feel, which gives the ambience of a Left Bank coffee bar. It also includes an album of her songs in Italian but the real interest for JJ readers comes from the other two discs.
Disc 2 starts with a real curiosity – an Air France advert, complete with introductory commentary, recorded onboard a Caravelle cruising at 28,000 feet at 500 mph over Deauville. The Sacha Distel Trio, appropriately, plays Django Reinhardt’s Nuages.
Distel’s Homage A Django EP follows, with Claude Bolling & his Orchestra – tight arrangements with tracks segueing into one another, with room for Distel to stretch out, but occasional slightly irritating voices.
Then come the sessions with Bobby Jaspar – firstly a 1957 quintet with trombonist Bill Byers (whom Distel met on a visit to New York and with whom he shared a Paris apartment for a while), then the 1955 Barclay set issued under Jaspar’s name as Modern Jazz Au Club St-Germain, but without the track Memory Of Dick (Jaspar’s tribute to the late Dick Twardzik), as Distel sat out on this. The band plays well, reflecting the leader’s interest in Stan Getz, and Jimmy Raney’s influence on Distel. The disc ends with the four tracks of an EP Distel made with fellow guitarist Jean-Pierre Sasson for Columbia.
The third CD consists of the John Lewis – Sacha Distel album Afternoon In Paris, recently reviewed by John White, and featuring the big rounded tenor of Barney Wilen, then only 19 and a good contrast with the lighter, more relaxed style of Jaspar. The strength and confidence of Wilen’s playing is an indication of why he became the European choice of Miles, Monk, Blakey and others.
Further tracks have Distel accompanied by a septet, mainly playing compositions and arrangements by Bill Byers which have a West Coast feel, and a hidden gem in the Michel Legrand tune Avec Ces Yeux-La, George Duvivier delivering a fine bass solo. Finally, soundtracks from Roger Vadim’s film The Seven Deadly Sins, including Distel’s Marina which as The Good Life became a huge vocal hit for Tony Bennett.
Much of the Distel material can be found elsewhere, mainly on the Gitanes Jazz In Paris series, but a few gaps are filled here and are a good representation of a guitarist whom Ralph J. Gleason described as having a “warm, directly communicating manner of playing … and whose performance always takes firm hold of your attention”. (Downbeat, 1957)
CD1: 22 tracks of Francoise Hardy with Roger Samyn and Ezio Leoni & Orchestras (52.47)
CD2: (1) Nuages; (2-7) Minor Swing; Swing 41; Nuages Pt 1 & 2; Swing 39; Daphne; (8, 9) Nuages; EPi Blues; (10-13) Scotch Hop; Everything Happens To Me; Competition; Sacha, Bill Et Bobby; (14-20) Bag’s Groove; Milestones; Minor Drops; I’ll Remember April; You Stepped Out Of A Dream; I Can’t Get Started; A Night In Tunisia; (21-24) Winter Holiday; Two Guitar Blues; Joan; Goofy The Cat (80.45)
CD3: (1-3) I Cover The Waterfront; Dear Old Stockholm; Afternoon In Paris; (4-6) All The Things You Are; Bag’s Groove; Willow Weep For Me; (7-14) Olympia Orgy; On Serait Des Chats; Round About Midnight; N° 1 For Sacha; Thanks Bill; Avec Ces Yeux-La; A Piece Of Pizza; Blues For Tiny; (15, 16) Marina; Blue Waltz De Orgueil (78.48)
Distel (g) with:
CD2: (1) Trio, in aircraft 17 April 1959. (2-7) Claude Bolling & Orchestra, Paris 1959. (8, 9) Quartette, Paris 1959. (10-13) Bobby Jaspar & Sacha Distel Quintette: Jaspar (ts, f); Bill Byers (tb); Rene Urtreger (p); Paul Rovere (b); Al Levitt (d). Paris, September 1957. (14-20) Bobby Jaspar All Stars: Jaspar (ts, f); Urtreger (p); Benoit Quersin (b); Jean-Louis Viale (d), Paris, 27 & 29 December 1955. (21-24) Jean-Pierre Sasson (g); Benoit Quersin (b); Christian Garros (d). Paris 1957.
CD3: (1-3) John Lewis (p); Barney Wilen (ts); Pierre Michelot (b); Connie Kay (d). Paris, 7 December 1956. (4-6) Lewis (p); Wilen (ts); Percy Heath (b); Kenny Clarke (d). Paris, 4 December 1956. (7-14) Bill Byers (tb); Georges Grenu (ts); William Boucaya (bar, bcl); Jean Liesse (t); Gene Di Novi (p); Pierre Michelot (b); Georges Duvivier (b). (9 & 12) Christian Garros (d); Charles Saudrais (d). Paris, May 1956. (15, 16) Bernard Hulin (t); Raymond Le Senechal (org); Pierre Michelot (b); Kenny Clarke (d). Paris 1961.