Guy Lafitte (ts), Roger Guérin (tp), Claude Gousset, Nat Peck (tb), Dominique Chanson (as, fl), Michel De Villers, William Boucaya (bs), Jean-Claude Pelletier, Georges Arvanitas, Raymond Fol (p), Paul Rovère (b), Christian Garros, Franco Manzecchi (d), Kenny Hagood (vcl), Claude Bolling, Raymond Fol, Martial Solal (arr)
Reference: FSRCD 975
Bar code: 8427328609753
These Guy Lafitte sides were recorded between 1956 and 1962, and are full of great moments. To begin somewhere, the quartet sessions include some absolutely beautiful solos by Guy on the ballads—Body and Soul may be the best. Naturally, the rhythm sections are about as relaxed as can be, driven by two pillars of French jazz: bassist Paul Rovère, and drummer Christian Garros, who lay down the beat without flurries or distractions. But solo honors on these dates must also go to the pianists—Jean-Claude Pelletier, who does a great job, but particularly George Arvanitas and Raymond Fol, with whom Guy loved to play. The appearance of bop vocalist Kenny Hagood in three of the tunes is a welcome addition, with his natural and easy voice.
Guy is also heard in the loose-limbed context of two consistent sextets. But despite the solid framework, it is again Guy who carried the load, improvising through a repertoire of moody and warm originals and three well known Ellington tunes arranged by Claude Bolling and Raymond Fol, and with the contribution of Martial Solal scoring two new compositions penned by Lafitte. In addition, these dates feature several soloists whose talents have been too often bypassed over the years—Roger Guérin, Claude Gousset, Nat Peck, Dominique Chanson, and William Boucaya.
As a soloist, it is always worth paying attention to Guy Lafitte. His music was not merely fine, mellow and swinging—it was an entire philosophy praising the joie de vivre.
"Monsieur Lafitte was a master. In effect, I would rank him with Chu Berry and Don Byas. I say in effect because, although his sense of form, eloquence on the horn and beautiful tone are a match for Byas and Berry, he was a primitive. He never learned to read music. If I know the number, I know my place, where I play with the other musicians.
Like Django, he began his career playing with gypsies. They were Spanish – they are different you know. Although Guy was house-trained and Django wasn’t, they had their skills in common, and Guy should rank with the very top musicians who came out of France fully equipped to improvise and swing at a time when our musicians were writhing incoherently over British rhythm sections that had the bounce and lift of Westminister Abbey.
Although first influenced by Louis, Guy is most palpably a Coleman Hawkins disciple, using all the elements of Hawk’s style in his own voice. Hawk burgeons through these tracks, but there’s a particularly good sample in the fine Le Chat Qui Dort, which also serves as a yardstick for the sextet.
It’s listed as by the quartet, but there is a great blues solo from a trombonist, probably Claude Gusset (there is also a good trombonist, unlisted on the  sides) as well as some gentle instrumental vocalising from Hagood, who intones a strange Body And Soul. Kenny has a crack at Billy Eckstine’s Lonesome Lover Blues, but men-from-boys comes to mind and Mr B has nothing to fear. There’s a good bluster solo from Guy, though and muscular piano from Raymond Fol.
The French pianists are particularly fine, and Roger Guérin, a tasteful trumpeter who sounds as though he’s holding in his bop instincts, only emerges to tantalise. Lafitte rhapsodises beautifully on the ballads, notably It Might As Well Be Spring."
Steve Voce (April 29, 2019)
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