Tap That Jazz: Respect

French quintet, complete with tap dancer, treat a range of idiom, from opera to Latin music, in classic jazz style

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This themed album, the fifth from Tap That Jazz (formerly known as Les Oignons), features songs performed by the group in a stage show, Sing That Fight, which celebrated in vintage jazz style the lives and songs of an eclectic range of female vocalists, many outside the jazz idiom, whose careers had been affected by sexism and racism. The belittling of female jazz and blues musicians, rife in the past, has been a cause commendably flagged up by Frémeaux on other albums. Names mentioned in this album’s notes range from Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone and Billie Holiday to Janis Joplin and Maria Callas.

The basic quintet’s instrumentation, with banjo, sousaphone and washboard as rhythm, suggests archaic New Orleans style, but the group’s musical aims are more ambitious and far reaching. Carefully planned arrangements tackle, with varying degrees of success, repertoire from operatic arias, soul, pop ballads, Latin and blues. Billie’s Strange Fruit is the only familiar jazz classic.

After the somewhat wild opener, versatile vocalist June Milo sings confidently and expressively on every track, swapping languages and coping boldly with the mixed and challenging programme. Trumpet and leader Julien Sylvan bustles feistily and skilfully in the upper register in a comprehensive range of styles, roaming somewhere between hot Jabbo Smith and bubbling bop.

The tap dancer appearing in the stage show is included on the album as a featured contributor to the performance. Though enterprising and interesting, the arrangements are obviously related closely to the visual stage presentation. Without this, and in audio only, they often seem rather bitty and intrusive, with too many breaks, shifts of tempo and changes of rhythm, bridges etc.

From a jazz point of view the brief passages of straightahead, brightly swinging ensemble come off best, with stalwart support from banjoist Rémi Oswald. Les Triangles Des Sistres Tintaient from Carmen is the most effectively arranged of the operatic adaptations. Decolonise (by Silvand), Arnaq (by Elisapie, a Canadian Inuit) and Mississippi Goddam are other enjoyable, well-performed tracks, with good all-round rapport. Ambitious and off the beaten track, this album is an interesting themed experiment in applying the sound of classic jazz to a wide selection of musical expression.

Discography
Respect; Strange Fruit; Caro Nome (Rigoletto); Decolonise (Don’t Just Recognise); È Strano! / Ah, fors è lui / Follie! Follie! (La Traviata); Sodade; I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free; Arnaq; Casta Diva (Norma); Les Triangles Des Sistres Tintaient (Carmen); Une Sorcière Comme Les Autres; Piece Of My Heart; Mississippi Goddam (67.59)
Julien Silvand (t, arr, v); June Milo (v); Dominique Mandin (ts, v); Julien Vardon (tap dance); Rémi Oswald (bj); Raphaël Martin (bb); Cajoune Girard (wbd, v). No date or location given.
Frémeaux CD FA8593