Jacques Denjean (p, arr, dir), Gilles Thibaut, Ivan Jullien, Georges Bence, Pierre Dutour, Claude Laboucarié, Michel Poli (tp), Raymond Fonseque, Luis Fuentes, François Guin, Michel Camicas, Claude Gousset, Michel Steckar (tb), Teddy Hameline, Edgar Faure, Jacques Nourredine (as), Jean-Louis Chautemps (as, ts), Pierre Gossez, Gérard Badini (ts), Dominique Chanson (ts, fl), Henri Jouot (bs), Georges Arvanitas (p), Pierre Cullaz, Paul Piguillem (g), Michel Gaudry, Pierre Sim (b), Philippe Combelle, René Nan (d)
Bar code: 8427328611312
In early 1959, pianist Jacques Denjean (1929-1995) had his first opportunity to showcase his skills as a big band jazz arranger when he brought together some of the best jazz musicians in Paris to back trumpeter Gilles Thibaut on an EP with a Basie-like punch on four tracks.
Two years later, Denjean was struck by the idea that a jazz orchestra composed of top-class French musicians could spark interest among the younger generation, just as Kurt Edelhagen's orchestra found favor with listeners in Germany and the orchestra by Ted Heath gained popularity among young audiences in England.
He had to tackle several problems, one of which was recruiting musicians who were not only skilled readers but also passionate about jazz and uninterested in other musical genres. The team spirit of the eighteen musicians, including the leader at the piano, flourished within the orchestra, thanks to the continuous collective work that involved one or two rehearsals per week.
Finally, on July 15, 1961, the new Jacques Denjean orchestra made their television debut, captivating audiences with their lively and dynamic performances. The ensemble's pure and powerful sound provided ample space for solo blowing of generally high quality, and the level achieved by the band since their debut surprised even the most skeptical critics. Denjean's orchestra deftly channeled Count Basie's sound and drive through his spare arrangements. His ability to select the right musical influences was a crucial part of his talent as a composer and arranger.
During its brief existence, Denjean's band was hailed as "Le premier grand orchestre de Jazz Français". This compilation has brought together all the jazz recordings made in its gestation stage in 1959, and during the period 1961-1962, when Jacques Denjean's orchestra was at the pinnacle of European jazz.
Note: See CD booklet for a more detailed and comprehensive overview of Jacques Denjean's jazz career.
"If Count Basie came from Red Bank, New Jersey, maybe band leader, pianist, conductor and arranger Jacques Denjean came from the Rive Rouge, as his band sure sounds a lot like it drank from the Basie waters.
This collection of Denjean’s orchestra contains mostly originals, but the team that includes French all-stars like Gilles Thibaut-Ivan Jullien/tp, Claude Gousset/tb, Dominqiue Chanson-Gerard Badini/ts, Georges Arvanitas/p, Pierre Cullaz/g, Michel Gaudry/b and Philippe Combelle/dr has a blue and Kansas Citified feel throughout these sessions from the late 50s and early 60s. Thibaut’s tone is reminiscent of Louis Armstrong on the sweet “Sablons” and “April In Paris” with Denjean’s piano giving an economical swing that will fool most people on a “Blindfold Test”.
Then, you’ve got Dominque Chanson sounding like the second coming of Lockjaw Davis
with an equally Texas tenor sounding Badini on “The Champ” and “Tenor Contest”, with
the horns swaggering on an ultra tasty take of “Walkin” The horns get Rat Packy in “Blue
Moon” and swing with ease on “The Nearness of You” and a bouncing “The Huckle-Buck”.
Kansas City swing in Givenchy!"
—George W. Harris (July 24, 2023)