Guillaume Nouaux: The Clarinet Kings

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French drummer Guillaume Nouaux has fulfilled a long-held ambition in putting together this album, inspired by some cherished recordings entitled “Zutty And The Clarinet Kings” made by the New Orleans drummer Zutty Singleton. Nouaux invited a number of talented clarinettists currently paying in classic vintage style to contribute to his project. Featured are 11 soloists from a broad international spectrum who specialise, in diverse styles, in the fields of New Orleans, Dixieland or swing.

The double album is presented in a straightforward, systematic way. Each clarinettist performs one solo track on each CD, with a standard trio set up of clarinet, piano and drums. (This in order to establish an homogeneous approach, Nouaux explains in his notes, whilst admitting that he appreciates the space to be personally well involved in the proceedings. Which he does, admirably.)

For lovers of small-group classic clarinet jazz, the album is a delight. All the tracks are skilfully planned and performed. Several of the musicians are new to me. Evan Christopher and Antti Sarpila are perhaps best known in the UK, and make outstanding contributions here – particularly Christopher’s wittily entitled original, Nouaux Leans Strut. The selection of tunes, all round, is enjoyably varied. Still more might have been achieved perhaps with some added duet or trio clarinet tracks, offering ensemble rapport between the talented guests. Maybe next time!

Four very capable stride pianists were recruited for the sessions, all with the full and driving left hand necessary for trio work with no bass. Nouaux himself supports and interacts responsively with skill and obvious relish, considerably influenced by Singleton, Krupa and Wettling. His finely tuned drums contribute ingenious solo melody statements in two duet tracks , Moanin’ and Broadway. All in all, a very enjoyable and thoroughly planned album of which Nouaux can be proud.

Discography
CD1: The Minor Drag; Melancholy Blues; Yours Is My Heart Alone; Moanin’; Stealin’ Apples; Sophisticated Lady; Tokyo Express; Burgundy Street Blues; Honeysuckle Rose; I’m Confessin’ That I Love You; China Boy; Blue Turning Grey Over You (50.31)
CD2: Nouaux-Lean Strut; Just One Of Those Things; Broadway; Liza; Ballad For The Man From The South; Shreveport Stomp; Moonglow; Somebody Stole My Gal; Candy; If Dreams Come True; Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams; Avalon (50.37)
Nouaux (d) with, collectively: Esaie Cid (cl); Luca Filastre (p); Evan Christopher (cl); Jacques Schnek (p); Antti Sarpila (cl); Eiji Hanoaka (cl); Harry Kanters (p); David Lukacs (cl); Frank Roberscheuten (cl); Jerome Gatius (cl); Alain Barrabes (p); Lars Frank (cl); Aurelie Tropez (cl); Engelbert Wrobel (cl); Jean-Francois Bonnel (cl). France, January-June 2019.