by: Paulanne Simmons
When Peter and Will Anderson, and the other members of their jazz quintet walk onstage wearing suits and ties, there may be some at 59E59 Theaters who wonder what kind of jazz they are going to hear. But once the band starts playing everyone quickly realizes that the evening will be filled with music that’s cool and sizzling, passionate and precise, swinging and sultry.
Part concert, part seminar, Le Jazz Hot: How the French Saved Jazz, is the Andersons’ tribute to American jazz musicians who went to France for larger audiences, better pay and a genuine appreciation of their art. Many African Americans, also became ex-patriots to avoid American racism.
Although vintage film plays a big part in the evening’s entertainment, the quintet, for the most part, proves their point through example. They play terrific arrangements of some of jazz immortals’ greatest hits: Duke Ellington’s “Paris Blues,” Sidney Bechet’s “Si Tu Vois Ma Mere” and Dizzy Gillespie’s “Afro Paris” (which allows Luc Decker to shine on his drums). A suite of Django Reinhardt compositions gives guitarist Randy Napoleon the chance to flaunt his talent. And Clovis Nicolas proves equally adept at speaking French and playing the bass.
Peter and Will have a lot in common. Not only are they twins, they are both classically trained on the clarinet and saxophone. This is more than adequately demonstrated by the quintet’s rendition of Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune.”
Although most people know a great deal about jazz royalty like Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis, there are other, lesser known musicians who also played a significant role in jazz history, people like drummer Kenny Clarke and pianist Bud Powell, both influential in the development of bebop. The Andersons give them all equally loving treatment.
Did the French save jazz? Even the Andersons concede that’s up for debate. But after an evening of such fantastic music, who cares?
Le Jazz Hot: How the French Saved Jazz. At 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59 Street, between Park and Madison, until December 29.