George Barboteu (cnt), Fred Gérard, Christian Bellest, Lucien Juanico, Henry Vanek, Robert Fassin, Vincent Casino, Fernand Verstraete, Ack Van Rooyen (tp), Roger Guérin (tp, flgh), Bernard Vitet (flh), André Paquinet, Nat Peck, Charles Verstraete, Benny Vasseur, Michel Paquinet, Gaby Villian, Billy Byers, Henri Talourd, Roger Caron (tb), David Amram (Engh), Jean Lesniewski (tuba), Armand Migiani (as, bs), Jean-Louis Chautemps (as, ts), Jo Hrasko (as), Jean Aldegon, René 'Micky' Nicholas, Jean Mercadier, Bobby Jaspar, Jean Aldegon, Allen Eager, Georges Grenu (ts), William Boucaya (bs), Martial Solal, Art Simmons (p), Christian Chevallier (p, vib), Michel Hausser (vib), Pierre Cullaz (g), Pierre Michelot, Paul Rovere (b), Christian Garros, Kansas Fields (d), Sadi (vib, bongos), Stéphanie Wise, Glenda Leigh (vcl)
Reference: FSRCD 893_2
Bar code: 8427328608930
This 2-CD compilation contains 4 x EPs, 3 x 10" LPs, 1 x 12" LP
In the early Fifties pianist Christian Chevallier (1930-2008) was the brightest rising star of the young French school of jazz composers and arrangers, achieving what many strove for: a purely American sound. His Bill Holman-influenced writing was also inspired by the work of jazz groups like the Miles Davis Nonet, and the Kenton and Basie orchestras. By 1955 he was considered the best arranger in France. After listening to his orchestral recordings of Fiction, Street in Saint Germain, La Cienega, and Crystal, Stan Kenton wrote: “I have enjoyed hearing them and must tell you that, once again, I was most favorably impressed. The work of Christian constantly amazes me.” Chevallier’s admirers also included such trailblazers as Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan and John Lewis. The celebrated French poet, artist and filmmaker Jean Cocteau called him “The Prince of Jazz Français.”
His recordings with small group and orchestra featured most of the best soloists in France and Belgium, whose fine work contributes to the value of these performances. For his album “Formida- ble,” Chevallier organized the first post-war Big Band in France, winning the Grand Prix du Disque de l’Académie Charles Cros, the Prix Django Reinhardt and even the Stan Kenton Award.
This set contains his most important jazz works from the period—before the ‘60s began and he turned towards pop and musical theater—when each new Chevallier album was a noteworthy event in the jazz world.
"We've been bouncing around the world this week as I highlight worthy albums by non-U.S. jazz artists who may be new to you. Today is no exception. Christian Chevallier is barely known in the States, yet he's one of the finest French big band arrangers of the 1950s. What set Chevallier apart was his ability to produce American-style big band arrangements and rehearse French bands so they sounded like Hollywood studio ensembles of the era. I guarantee that if I gave you a blindfold test featuring Chevallier's recordings and asked you to name the band and arranger, you would likely reply "Bill Holman" or "Johnny Richards." Chevallier was that remarkable, and the bands he led were that extraordinary.
I can honestly say that the new 2-CD set Christian Chevallier: Le Prince Du Jazz Français, His Orchestra and Small Groups 1955-1961 (Fresh Sound) is the most satisfying big band album I've heard in some time. I know many of you are Stan Kenton and Shorty Rogers fans. Chevallier's recordings are in the same league. Which is remarkable, since the tracks were written and recorded in France with mostly French musicians.
Born in Angers, France, in 1930, Chevallier began studying music at age 8 and entered the Nantes' music conservatory at 11. When he was 13, he won second prize during a major piano competition. As Allied bombing intensified during the liberation of France, his family moved to the country, keeping him from the piano for nearly four years. Chevallier returned to music in 1947 when a friend turned him on to jazz recordings. After he heard jazz pianist Jack Dieval on the radio, Chevallier moved to Paris.
Eventually, Chevallier played with Don Byas, but jazz opportunities were slim in the late 1940s, taking a back seat to pop music heavy on nostalgia for prewar France. In 1951, cabaret singer Juliette Gréco hired Chevallier for her orchestra, but the job still wasn't jazz. Eager to perform and arrange jazz, Chevallier got his wish in the mid-1950s, when he led and arranged ensembles. By then there was plenty of work. The French record industry had picked up as the economy improved, phonographs became cheaper, more American musicians played in Paris, and French and U.S. labels cut distribution deals.
The beauty of this new two-CD set is the many different Chevallier ensembles included here. The first CD features seven different Chevallier groups while the second adds five more. Of the 50 tracks, not one is a dud. Which is rather remarkable. Among my favorite groups was Chevallier's big band in 1955 [...]
The songs were all originals and the arrangements were top shelf. If you didn't know better, you'd think these were recorded in Los Angeles. And if you think I'm blowing hot air, dig for yourself. Here's Chevallier's band in November 1955 playing his composition and arrangement of Vline (far superior to Chet Baker's big band cover of Chevallier's arrangement recorded a month earlier in Paris).
I'm guessing that Chevallier after 1961 spent much of his time arranging and conducting for French television, since he seems to disappear from the jazz scene. In Tom Lord's Jazz Discography, Chevallier pops up after 1961 only playing vibes as a sideman in 1971, on a Stéphane Grappelli album in 1977 as the session conductor, and on Sam Most's Any Time, Any Season in 1986 as arranger of the string section. Chevallier died in 2008.
Perhaps our French friends can inform us of Chevallier's career post-1961."
Marc Myers (May 17, 2017)
"French pianist/composer Christian Chevallier had many phases to his career, but in the 1950s he led a big band that was inspired by some of the then contemporary American large ensembles, and also fronted some smaller groups. His compositions and arrangements were highly regarded by many American jazz stars including Stan Kenton, Miles Davis and Gerry Mulligan.
Le Prince Du Jazz Français compiles recordings by his big band and small groups during the period 1955-1961. The music was originally released on a series of EPs and LPs in France. Today it is still wonderfully fresh and exciting music that will be new to most American listeners. Chevellier’s arrangements stand the test of time. They often reflect the influence of Bill Holman, and that is about as fine an influence as one could follow. The musicianship is of a high order throughout the program. Once again, Jordi Pujol has reached deeply into the archives of recorded jazz to revive music worthy of renewed attention."
Joe Lang, President of the New Jersey Jazz Society
Jersey Jazz Magazine (September, 2016)
"Here’s what Fresh Sound Records does best; find a guy you’ve never heard of, and make you wonder why you don’t have more of his material. Case in point…
Christian Chevallier was a French composer and a leader of small bands and orchestras during the ‘50s and 60s. In his home ground, he played with the likes of Don Byas, and his material got the attention and accolades of Kenton, Miles and Mulligan. This two cd set showcases his talents in a variety of settings.
Most impressive are his big band recordings from 1955-1956 with a Pres-inspired collection of tenor sax players in Bobby Jaspar during hard swinging pieces such as “Nice Joke” and “Bess, You Is My Woman Now.” These guys hit hard!
The small groups include a quintet with famed bassist Pierre Michelot, and Jaspar doing wonders with “Dream Time” while the quartet has Chevallier on piano and “Fats” Sadi on vibes for some symbiotic team work on swinging pieces such as “Dizz Delight” and “Olympia.” Warm toned trumpeter Roger Gueren does some nice work on “Street In Manhattan” and proto-bopper Allen Eager sits in an orchestra for a movie soundtrack. That’s about everything from this guy; better enjoy it! You’ll flip over the big band charts; he had some great ideas and you’ll stump just about everyone you know on a blindfold test, with everyone’s first guess being “Quincy Jones.” Gotta love it."
George W. Harris (August 1, 2016)
"The Fresh Sound label is one of the major reissue record companies, also releasing new music on their Fresh Sound New Talent subsidiary. Fresh Sound, under the direction of the tireless Jordi Pujol, has repackaged and reissued a great deal of very valuable jazz from the 1950s and early 1960s. In addition to the major names, some of their most intriguing sets focus on obscure figures from jazz history whose music has been out-of-print for decades.
Pianist-arranger Christian Chevallier (1930-2008) was famous in France during much of his lifetime but ultimately became better known for his work writing soundtracks for films, scores for theatre and for pop music than for his jazz work. His two-CD Fresh Sound release features his most significant jazz recordings. Many of these performances were last out on French Eps so they were formerly quite rare. Chevallier is heard in small groups that often have solo space for Bobby Jaspar on tenor and flute, vibraphonist Fats Sadi and trumpeter Roger Guerin, and at the head of several big bands that feature a powerful trumpet section. Chevallier’s piano playing is modern and distinctive for the time while his writing recalls the jazz-oriented side of Stan Kenton and his arrangers. While most of the musicians are French, their playing is world-class and on the same level as their American counterparts. Bop and big band collectors will certainly enjoy this perfectly-produced set which includes an extensive and informative booklet."
Scott Yanow (July, 2016)
Los Angeles Jazz Scene
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