Jacques Gauthé & The Creole Rice Jazz Band: Blues for Bechet

For many years, one of the unexpected pleasures of visiting New Orleans was discovering the masterful Jacques Gauthé, either while he was sitting in with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band or leading his own Creole Rice Jazz Band at its home base for many years, the plush Meridian Hotel on Canal Street. Gauthé, who passed away in 2007, was born and raised in France and inspired to take up the clarinet by a Sidney Bechet concert he attended in Paris as a young boy in 1951. He moved to New Orleans in 1968, and worked as a chef before turning to jazz fulltime in 1984, whereupon he began doubling on soprano sax.

In 1997, New Orleans took part in the Centennial Celebration of Sidney Bechet's birth, a perfect time for Gauthé to record a tribute to his idol. In addition to recording 15 tunes Bechet had written and/or played, Gauthé included his own noteworthy composition "Blues for Bechet." Gauthé's stirring soprano, with its wide vibrato and rich, fully rounded tone, unavoidably evokes Bechet. The piece shifts from a melancholy, almost dirge-like opening theme played by Gauthé, to an upbeat, more joyful quality when the horns join him – a structure reminiscent of the two faces of a New Orleans-style funeral procession. A string of solos featuring Owen's vibrant trombone, Heitger's vigorously buoyant trumpet, Pistorius's honky-tonk piano, and Edegran's delicately articulated acoustic guitar, all prove that this is no one-man band. Gauthé soars on the out chorus, as the full band drives home its message with both authenticity and verve.

February 26, 2009 · 0 comments


John Coltrane: Blues To Bechet

"Blues To Bechet" is another of John Coltrane's many superb pianoless blues performances. Apparently there was something about the sonority of a simple bass/drums accompaniment that brought out Trane's best, especially when playing the blues at a slow-to-medium tempo. As one might deduce given the song title, he plays soprano—somewhat of a departure for him, since most of his recorded blues performances were played on tenor. Coltrane plays very lyrically, as was often his tendency on the smaller horn. In his solo, he leans on simple melodic figures, stitched together with an occasional technical flourish. The mood is laid back and fairly restrained. Neither of his bandmates solos, but both provide more than adequate support. Things heat up in his final chorus, but mostly Trane tells his story in (relatively) simple language, within a narrow emotional compass. It's a Coltrane not often heard, but one that is invariably affecting.

November 20, 2008 · 0 comments


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