Reference: FSRCD 974
Bar code: 8427328609746
Maurice Vander (1929-2017) epitomizes the golden age of 1950s Paris, when clubs and cabarets where full of live jazz—and many other things, too. His debut as a jazz pianist came in early 1948, and it wasn’t long until he started playing as a sideman with such greats as Django Reinhardt, Don Byas, Bobby Jaspar, Clifford Brown, and Jimmy Raney. It took him a few years, but in the fall of 1955, he was finally offered to record under his own name, leading a trio with Benoît Quersin and Jacques David. The result was an album of standards highlighting all the best sides of Vander’s style: his clear and delicate attack, round sound, intelligent inspiration and flawless technique.
His work on piano became much in demand, and could be heard in groups led by Chet Baker, Joe Newman, Stéphane Grappelly, Barney Wilen, Kenny Clarke, Art Simmons and Sarah Vaughan. In 1960, after two years touring the Middle East, Vander returned to Paris to work at the Blue Note club, where he formed a trio with Pierre Michelot and Kenny Clarke. Their repertoire was based on well-known standards, and even though the trio did not usually play originals, their recordings show Vander at his best, relying on his talents as an improviser, and proving that he was a swinging pianist capable of communicating gentle warmth and reflective tenderness with equal aplomb.
Even though he may not have had the virtuosity of Martial Solal, the sensitivity of René Urtreger, or the versatility of Georges Arvanitas, Maurice Vander displayed an ability, like no other, to sustain interest without unnecessary harmonic complexity, and without straying unnecessarily far from the melody. He was 87 when he died, and he will be remembered by generations of musicians as one of the most esteemed French pianists in the history of jazz.
"I’m sure I’m not the only person who has never heard of Maurice Vander before, but I am so glad Fresh Sound has introduced us at last. Vander (1929–2017) epitomised 1950s Paris jazz, where a club and cabaret pianist could make a stylish impression.
Vander made his debut in 1948 and was soon playing with Django Reinhardt, Clifford Brown, and Bobby Jaspar, his recording debut as leader – tracks (1) – occurring in 1955 when he was supported by a trio of Benoît Quersin on bass and Jacques David on drums. He was soon in great demand to support visiting musicians such as Chet Baker and Sarah Vaughan, as well as working with home-grown talent such as Stéphane Grappelly and Barney Wilen.
He toured the Middle East for two years before returning to Paris in 1960, where he worked at the Blue Note club, this time with a trio of Pierre Michelot on bass and the expat bebop drummer Kenny Clarke, caught here live but without an audience on tracks (3) from 1961.
With both trios, Vander played only standards, each one showcasing his characteristically clear yet delicate attack, his easy-on-the-ear sound, and flawless technique. His improvisations were inspired, his effortless swing capable of communicating both great warmth and a reflective tenderness. True, he didn’t stray far from the melody, but he always sustained interest without any great harmonic complexity. He didn’t have the virtuosity of, say, his contemporary Martial Solal or the sensitivity of René Utreger, but he had his own stylish integrity.
In total he recorded a total of 20 albums as leader and more than 70 as a sideman, latterly playing with French pop stars and regularly working as a studio artist. When he eventually died in 2017, aged 88, he was fondly remembered as one of the most esteemed French pianists of his generation. This fine set – an object lesson in how to reissue recently neglected material – is a fitting tribute."
Simon Adams (May 9, 2019)
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