Friday, April 27, 2012

Evan Christopher Follows Sidney's Footsteps

Once again nominated in the Jazz Journalists Association’s Awards for clarinet, Evan Christopher has a new release in his Clarinet’s Road series, In Sidney’s Footsteps (STR Digital Records). This edition was recorded in Paris with a band that includes David Blenkhorn on guitar; Julien Brunetaud on piano; Sébastien Girardot on bass and Guillaume Nouaux on drums. As indicated by the title, the music of Sidney Bechet is inspiration for the music here, although not all the performances are of songs recorded by Bechet.

Christopher is brilliant on this recordings from the opening I Got a Right to Sing the Blues through the jaunty rendition of When I Grow Too Old to Dream that closes this recording. His clarinet sings with warmth, bluesy expression, fluidity and melodic invention supported by a fabulous band whose members complement the leader and add their own stamp. Pianist Brunetaud and guitarist Blenkhorn shine on their solos as well as their accompaniments and the rhythm duo get the right groove.

Photo © Ron Weinstock
Delights include Christopher’s driving boogie woogie Cinq Minutes! (Boogie), which allows Brunetaud to display his considerable facility along with some rather hot playing from Christopher and a spotlight on drummer Nouaux as well as Christopher’s lovely and wistful interpretation of Bechet’s famous Petite Fleur, with guitarist Blenkhorn adding embellishments as well as a tasteful solo.

Bechet’s Blues In The Air also displays Christopher and band’s facility with the blues with Brunetaud helping establish the movement with his understated blues playing over which Christopher states the theme and then elaborates. Blenkhorn mixes in single note runs with chords on his own jazzy blues solo. Blenkhorn is also prominent on the delicate and lovely performance of Django Reinhardt’s Manoir De Mes Rêves.

While not as strong a singer as clarinet player, Christopher has a definite charm as he shows on his vocal on James P. Johnson’s Old Fashioned Love, followed by his marvelous clarinet. He and pianist Brunetaud (singing in French) share the vocal on the closing When I Grow Too Old To Dream, with a very lively arrangement of this musical chestnut.

There is a presence to his clarinet and the performances on this wonderfully recorded album that continues to delight after repeated listening. In Sidney’s Footsteps may be Evan Christopher’s most exceptional recording yet. Given the high level of his prior albums, that is saying something.

I purchased this recording. Here is Evan Christopher performing Sidney Bechet's Petite Fleur.

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