Nouvelle chronique concert de JP Alenda sur

Le quintet de Christian Brenner
Café Laurent, Paris, 22 décembre 2018
© Jean-Pierre Alenda

Photos@François Pignet et C Brenner

Paris en clubs
Décembre 2018 – Janvier 2019

En ce samedi 22 décembre, au Café Laurent, Christian Brenner (p) nous proposait un quintet de choix, en compagnie de Frédéric Borey (ts), Yoann Loustalot (tp), Pier Paolo Pozzi (dm) et Yoni Zelnik (b). Tout commence par «And What If I Don’t» de Herbie Hancock, et on sent déjà que la magie du jazz sera de la partie rien qu’à écouter la façon dont les musiciens servent la mélodie plus qu’ils ne se mettent en valeur. «Bag’s Groove», le standard de Milt Jackson, confère une couleur classique bienvenue à l’ensemble, tandis que «Blimey» de Ted Brown est réorchestré pour combler l’absence de la guitare de Jimmy Raney. «Blue Silver» est un hommage à Horace Silver, que Christian Brenner interprète avec toute la délicatesse requise. «Comin’ Back» d’Hank Mobley témoigne de la passion manifestée par Frédéric Borey dans son jeu comme dans sa musique, alors qu’«Elora» de Jay Jay Johnson met en évidence la grande cohésion du groupe, nourrie d’une complicité évidente entre les musiciens et aussi, bien sûr, d’un nombre d’heures de jeu qu’on imagine conséquent. «Funk in Deep Breeze» sonne plutôt comme un tribute à Chet Baker, sur lequel Yoann Loustalot excelle tout particulièrement, avant que le groupe ne se frotte à forte partie sur le «Half Nelson» du quintet de Miles Davis. Vient ensuite, sans doute, le grand moment de la soirée, «Idle Moments» de Grant Green, où le duo de souffleurs entonne la mélodie de concert dès l’entame de la composition, à l’instar du dernier tiers d’un titre lent d’anthologie, où Joe Henderson et Bobby Hutcherson délivraient une prestation aux qualités uniques. «My Blues House» de Benny Golson est un retour au blues le plus pur et représente l’acmé du travail rythmique de Pier Paolo Pozzy et Yoni Zelnik, qui retrouvent l’esprit de la pulsation engendrée, à l’origine, par Paul Chambers et Art Blakey dans leurs performances respectives. Enfin, «Totem Pole» de Lee Morgan clôt en beauté un set parfait pour annoncer les réjouissances de fin d’année en une période trouble où l’esprit jazz apparaît d’autant plus fondamental qu’il porte en lui un certain nombre d’idéaux esthétiques qui appellent une société plus humaine. Une soirée où les grandes figures du jazz ont souvent brillé de façon fort bienvenue, comme pour conjurer les mauvais sorts recelés par notre époque. JP Alenda

Nouvelle Chronique de Jazz Journal June 2017 by Micheal Tucker

Paris: art by day, jazz by night

Michael Tucker visits an exhibition devoted to artist Karel Appel and spends three nights in the company of the immensely literate pianist Christian Brenner

As spring turns to summer there are always plenty of good reasons to visit the City of Light. A big draw for me this year was the large exhibition Art Is A Celebration, A Party! at the Musée D’Art Moderne, by the jazz-loving painter and sculptor, poet and printmaker Karel Appel (1921-2006).

Born in Amsterdam, Appel lived in Paris from 1950 to 1977, when he produced some of his most arresting works. Many of these were strongly influenced by what – following various visits to New York – Appel saw as the overall import of jazz: namely, its fundamental life-affirming vitality. He made some striking portraits of musicians, including Count Basie (pictured right), but the essence of the influence of jazz on Appel is to be found in the overall spontaneity of his working methods, the freely improvised mix of exuberant swathes of high-keyed colour and vigorously worked line.

I say exuberant, but there was also a strong sense of the absurd, the grotesque and the tragic in Appel. He said once, “I paint like a barbarian, in a time which is barbaric”. Like many painters of his generation, Appel was strongly marked by the horrors of World War Two and the subsequent tensions of the Cold War. All such characteristics were evident in a terrific exhibition which ran from the late 1940s through to Appel’s last years. It included a good many polychrome sculptures and ceramic pieces besides such archetypal paintings as Shriek In The Grass (1947), Carnaval Tragique (1954) and Archaic Life (1961). A highlight of the show was the opportunity it afforded to view the last-named piece – one of the largest and most powerful of Appel’s paintings, usually on view at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam – in close proximity to a showing of a substantial extract from a key film made about Appel in 1961, The Reality Of Karel Appel.

Directed by Jan Vrijman, the film focuses on the making of Archaic Life. We see Appel, not so much painting the canvas as attacking it with both hands, as one thickly laden spatula after another splashes paint into and across the emergent image. In part two of the three-part, largely electronic and richly percussive Barbarous Music LP which Appel released in 1963, the painter can be heard declaiming “I don’t paint, I hit!”. While Vrijman’s excellent film drew upon some of what would become Barbarous Music it also featured memorable, specially commissioned music from Dizzy Gillespie, now up-tempo, staccato and burning, now blues-soaked and musing. Fortunately, some of Gillespie ‘s work featured in the extract of the film which was shown on loop in the Appel show.

In Spring 2009 I visited Paris to see the large exhibition The Century Of Jazz: Art, Cinema, Music from Picasso to Basquiat at the Musée du Quai Bramly. Astonishingly, Appel did not feature in the show; nor was he (or Vrijman) to be found anywhere in the 450-page catalogue published to accompany this would-be comprehensive affair. The exhibition Art Is A Celebration, A Party! and the accompanying catalogue (which contains many memorable black and white images from Vrijman’s film by photographer Ed van der Elsken) went some considerable way to making up for this unaccountable oversight.

It has often been pondered whether the word jazz is best taken as noun or verb. The opportunity the exhibition afforded to experience Appel’s Archaic Life – a key work of the 20th century, deeply influenced by jazz – as both shape-shifting process and completed product was quite exceptional.

If this film from 1961 (the year of Coltrane’s legendary Chasin’ The Trane blues from Live At The Village Vanguard) did much to reinforce the long-standing myth that the over-arching image of jazz must be one of a music of improvised vitality, it also helped question any such myth and image. Appel is seen splashing paint on his canvas, like a demented drummer; but he is also seen standing back from his work, contemplating the results of his actions and choosing one rather than another colour for the next assault. Similarly, the range of tone and line exploited by Gillespie in his music for the film gives the lie to any simplistic notion of jazz as pure unmediated expression – the kind of myth that later in the decade would drive some of the wilder and ultimately less productive moments of free jazz.

Over half a century later, at a time when recent tragic events underline how much the issue of barbarism has taken on a newly grotesque and grimly urgent aspect, questions concerning the overall import of jazz are no less relevant or pressing than they were during the early years of Appel’s emergence as a painter of international consequence.

On this trip I was able to experience heartening confirmation of the long-standing faith of many an enthusiast of the music: namely that, at its best, jazz is able to dissolve the ostensible opposites of past and future, individual and group, structure and improvisation, intellect and emotion into an inspiring, even healing, confluence of affinities, aspiration and achievement. Three nights on the Left Bank spent listening to the very fine French pianist Christian Brenner offered contrasting yet complementary counterpoint to Appel’s take on jazz, as this immensely literate musician led three diverse yet equally invigorating and enriching groups at the Café Laurent.

The first night featured Brenner (born 1958) with his compatriot, acoustic bassist Gilles Naturel (born 1960) and Italian drummer Pier Paolo Pozzi (born 1964) (pictured above left). As Brenner remarked in his programme notes, the music sought to explore and refresh relations between classic, modern and contemporary jazz, drawing upon Brenner’s own finely crafted, often Latin-inflected compositions as well as e.g., Ellington, Monk and Gershwin, Kern, Rodgers and Porter, Arthur Schwartz, Victor Young and Henry Mancini, Charlie Parker and Wayne Shorter, Kenny Barron, Carlos Jobim and others. One of those others was Miles Davis: I entered the intimate and welcoming space that is Café Laurent to the classic strains of All Blues, which generated a typically energising solo from the ever-alert Pozzi, as incisive as it was imaginative. Someday My Prince Will Come and Corcovado were equally delightful, while a very different emotional register distinguished beautifully sustained readings of You Don’t Know What Love Is and When I Fall In Love.

Over the many years I’ve had the pleasure of hearing the classically trained Brenner, a consistent feature of his music has been the way his various groups allow the music to breathe. Giles Naturel is often key here. For many years now, Naturel has been first-call choice for Benny Golson whenever he tours Europe, which tells you much about Naturel’s quality. A Paul Chambers and Oscar Pettiford man, Naturel has a lovely warm sound and an enviable ability to let each note come to fully rounded life within the overall drive and bounce of a swinging line. He is also an outstanding arco player, who has spent enjoyable times with Slam Stewart and Major Holley. Whether pizzicato or arco, his playing was right in the pocket, while also slipping organically between dynamically astute, smile-inducing duets with Brenner and Pozzi.

Oscar Peterson used to talk about the “three-in-one” interaction he sought in his various trios. There was plenty of such interaction on these Paris nights, the first two delivered (as is usual at Café Laurent) with no amplification.

Pozzi – a drummer of both multi-layered power and exquisitely textured dynamic precision, who can play like the wind – was always present. He is able to draw upon considerable experience: he played with Tommy Flanagan in Paris at the end of the 1990s and, a few years later, featured Paolo Fresu on his first recording as leader. Each night Pozzi gelled beautifully with the different bass players Brenner chose.

On the second night, Blaise Chevallier – a Scott LaFaro and Eddie Gomez enthusiast – brought more of a cross-phrased edge to the music, perfect for Monk’s Well You Needn’t, a crisply sprung Softly As In A Morning Sunrise and, in conclusion, an extensive and mellow blues. On the final night, Olivier Cahours – a fine, essentially lyrical guitarist who appeared on Brenner’s first release, the 2005 Influences Mineures – and bassist François Fuchs (pictured right) chose to add a small touch of amplification to the proceedings; they shone especially on Blue Monk and There Will Never Be Another You.

A most thoughtful, intelligent and sensitive man, blessed with a great touch, Brenner performed one special new composition of piquant lyrical reflection, precipitated by the recent terrorist atrocity in Manchester. Throughout the three nights he mixed diverse harmonic richness and more open voicings, tender lyricism and assertively sprung rhythm, limpid reflection and blues-clipped grooves.

Overall, you could say that, while Appel chose to hit, Brenner prefers to caress. He is currently working on two new CDs and in December this year he will travel to Cambodia to lead two groups with, among others, Stéphane Mercier (as) and Damon Brown (t) at a major festival in Phnom Penh. It would be nice to think that, sometime soon, an enterprising promoter in Britain might consider inviting Brenner to cross La Manche and treat us to his special take on many an aspect of what was once so important to Karel Appel: the vitality of jazz.

The Karel Appel exhibition in Paris runs until 20 August 2017. Christian Brenner’s latest CD Les Belles Heures was given a five-star review in JJ 1216.

Relax with the luxurious print edition of Jazz Journal and enjoy more jazz news, reviews, features and debate.

Nouvelle chronique de jazz hot février 2017 (Quartet C Brenner / M Jacobsen / PP Pozzi / G Naturel)


Le 21 janvier, Christian Brenner conviait son ami Martin Jacobsen, ténor danois et parisien d’élection, au Café Laurent pour une formation en quartet complétée par Gilles Naturel (b) et Pier Paolo Pozzi (dm). De «Lover Man» à «Yesterday» en passant par «There Is no Greater Love», ces reprises permettent à Martin Jacobsen de dévoiler son jeu ample tout en retenue qui s’accorde parfaitement avec celui de Pier Paolo Pozzi retenant ses baguettes comme pour mieux effleurer les peaux de sa batterie. D’autres standards sont encore donnés par ce beau quartet, tout en cohérence, dont le dansant «Groovy Samba», «On Green Dolphin Street» de Miles Davis et un final sur «Star Eyes» salué par des applaudissements nourris mais feutrés, à l’image du lieu. De quoi conquérir une nouvelle fois les habitués qui étaient présents. PM (Chronique et ©photo noir et blanc)

Jazzhot mars 2016

A St-Germain-des-Prés, s’il reste des jazz clubs, le pluriel cache mal la désertification culturelle actuelle sous le rouleau compresseur de la consommation de mode et de masse. Pourtant, c’est sur les fonts baptismaux du jazz, à l’angle des rues Dauphine et Christine, où venaient jadis Boris Vian et les amateurs de jazz de l’ère existentialiste, au Tabou puisqu’il faut l’appeler par son nom, que le Café Laurent (33, rue Dauphine) propose ses soirées jazz enfin de semaine dans le cadre du bel Hôtel d’Aubusson. Renseignements pris surplace, c’est l’ancien propriétaire d’un autre club de jazz au passé prestigieux, LaVilla, également d’un Hôtel de St-Germain, qui a poursuivi ici ce qui est sansdoute pour lui une vocation authentique, et on ne peut que lui rendre grâce dedéfendre l’histoire et la culture avec autant d’opiniâtreté et de bon goût dans cequartier encore d’une beauté remarquable malgré l’époque tout fric et chiffons.

Dans le cadre aristocratique du bel hôtel de charme, l’atmosphère est accueillante, confortable et propice à une écoute de qualité. La programmation ne fait pas de folie comparable à celle qui a illustré l’histoire de La Villa, mais reste exigeante, jouant la carte locale sous la férule de l’excellent Christian Brenner, pianiste maison et programmateur du lieu. Paris reste un vivier de musiciens de jazz toujours très intéressants d’horizons les plus variés.
Ce samedi 6 février, le trio de Christian Brenner (p), avec Yoni Zelnik (b) et Pier Paolo Pozzi (dm) avait invité le saxophoniste transalpin Luigi Grasso, installé depuis quelques années en France –avec quelques excursions nord- américaines. Cela faisait de cette formation une illustration très parisienne du jazz puisqu’on retrouvait à la basse un natif d’Haïfa en Israël, et à la batterie un Romain qui a depuis de nombreuses années adopté la Capitale. Christian Brenner, l’âme du lieu, est lui parisien depuis 1968, où il a fait toutes ses gammes jazz dans la veine du beau piano jazz de Bill Evans à Fred Hersh parmi d’autres inspirations.

Les soirées du Café Laurent proposent, du mercredi au samedi, des formules allant du duo piano-contrebasse au quartet. C’était donc un quartet sous l’impulsion de l’invité Luigi Grasso, qui a proposé deux heures d’un excellent jazz conjuguant standards mainstream et manière bop devant un auditoire à l’écoute et ravi d’une belle soirée.La surprise fut de découvrir Luigi Grasso, le volubile saxophoniste alto, opter ce soir-là pour l’instrument de Gerry Mulligan, un vieux baryton Conn à la belle sonorité. Ce qui n’a pas changé la personnalité toute italienne de notre saxophoniste, alliant volubilité et dextérité de l’alto et son profond du gros instrument, avec ce brin d’exubérance et de légèreté qui le rend si sympathique, jusque dans le choix «très improvisé» des thèmes. Il avait ainsi l’air parfois de jouer du ténor («Saint Thomas»), une sorte de compromis à l’italienne…

Il a rivalisé d’aisance avec son compatriote, beau batteur, au drive et à la nervosité bienvenue dans ce registre. Pier Paolo Pozzi est en effet un talent de la batterie jazz. Il possède une musicalité qui relève aussi de la grande tradition italienne. On fait chanter les instruments, avec swing comme ici – parfois à même les peaux avec les mains– mais toujours avec un sens profond de la mélodie et du récit, un souci premier de la musique. Cette complicité naturelle autant que culturelle entre Luigi et Pier Paolo a trouvé chez Yoni Zelnik un soutien attentif, sans faille, répondant à toutes les sollicitations. Inutile de dire que Christian Brenner, de son clavier et en connaisseur, a apprécié et soutenu le quartet avec à propos et la réserve modeste de l’hôte qui laisse beaucoup de place à ses invités, en les mettant dans les meilleures conditions pour leur expression. Ses chorus ont été sobres, empreints de délicatesse et nuancés, dans l’esprit de sa personnalité.

Luigi Grasso a donc bougé son gros baryton, lui faisant exécuter des cascades de notes, sans effort apparentsur «What’s New», «Isfahan» (Ellington- Strayhorn), «Saint-Thomas» (Sonny Rollins), un splendide «Stablemates» (Golson, référence également à Dexter Gordon), «It Don’t Mean a Thing» (Ellington), et en seconde partie «Yesterdays», «Darn That Dream», «I Remember April», «These Foolish Things» traité en ballade, «There Is No Greater Love», «Someday My Prince Will Come», «I Remember You», etc., et, à chaque set, un blues, traité à la façon Grasso, comme chacun des thèmes. Il y a eu des tempos lents, médium ou rapides mais la musique est resté toujours du jazz d’un excellent niveau, dans le cadre très agréable du Café Laurent, un beau lieu du jazz dans le St-Germain-des-Près de Paris, France, 2016, beaucoup de raisons qui doivent inciter les amateurs de jazz à faire le détour.

Yves Sportis

Jazz Hot 2016 – Tous droits réservés
Paris en clubs Février 2016

Interview : Christian Brenner dans Jazz Journal de mars 2016

Voici une interview parue dans le Jazz Journal (Volume 69, n°3, March 2016).

« Today people talk about European jazz but really in art there are no frontiers. Cinema, painting and sculpture play a very important part in my life and for me to disappear into the sound is the most important thing«

Situated on the ground floor of the elegant Hotel d’Aubusson, the Café Laurent jazz club lies at the heart of Paris’s 6th Arrondissement, at the junction of Rue Dauphine and Rue Christine.

Four nights a week there, the French pianist Christian Brenner leads a trio and invites a wide range of first-class guest vocalists and instrumentalists to play at what is undoubtedly the best regular jazz gig in the city of light. It’s over a decade since I first went to Café Laurent and I’ve yet to hear music that didn’t send me out into the Paris night with a smile on my face.

There’s a strong sense of jazz history in the area. In 1947 the famous Club Tabou was started at the Aubusson and in the 1 990s, at nearby Rue Jacob, La Villa hosted worldclass jazz for some memorable years, featuring the likes of Harold Land, Chico Freeman, Shirley Hom, Fred Hersch and Ahmad Jamal. When La Villa closed, its exceptional Steinway came to the Aubusson, thanks to the efforts of maître d’hôtel Flavien, and early in the new millenium, Brenner and Flavien got Café Laurent started.

The place has never looked back, offering a superb natural acoustic in the most comfortable and intimate of surroundings.

Classically trained – he didn’t start playing jazz until he was 32 – and blessed with a wonderful touch and sense of dynamics, Brenner works with musicians who share his comprehensive knowledge and love of the jazz repertoire, and who, like him, bring fresh and vital perspective to it. Top-notch improvisers such as Italian drummer Pier Paolo Pozzi and French bassist Gilles Naturel (whose recent Contrapuntic Jazz Band album got a four-star review from Mark Gilbert in JJ 0515) interact superbly with Brenner – who is also a fine composer.

A subtle feeling for melody, time and atmosphere distinguishes the CDs he has recorded to date. They are Influences Mineures, Le Son De L’Absence and the soon-to-be released Les Belles Heures – the last of which showcases Brenner’s many affinities with Brazilian music. There have been times when Brenner has had to vacate the Café Laurent chair to tour, including Brazil and China. Recently, I caught him and his trio in Paris, first with saxophonist Guillaume Naturel (brother of Gilles, and who appears on Contrapuntic Jazz Band) and then with the French-domiciled American singer Monique Thomas.

I asked Christian, a thoughtful and intelligent man, about his background and musical philosophy. »I was bom in 1958 at Choisy Le Roi, near Paris. I came to jazz late, and leaming a new art at that stage in life, with a family to consider, was not easy. I went through a jazz programme directed by Alan Silva (ndlr :IACP, Paris) and learned so much from playing live. There have been many influences and affinities on the way! Keith Jarrett and his trio, for instance: I love their engagement, their sound and interplay – the creative imagination they have. Bill Evans, of course, and Herbie Hancock; Kenny Barron, Enrico Pieranunzi and Fred Hersch – these have been special for me.

But I have appreciated and learned from many of the major names – from Miles and Coltrane to Wes Montgomery, Brad Mehldau and Pat Metheny, for instance. And Art Tatum: his playing is so modern, still! « Today, jazz in Paris is on a very high level, with an amazing new generation exploring many possibilities … Open your ears, you can fly! Personally, I’m a touch nostalgic and love old forms. But if I feel a little distant from contemporary jazz with big amplification, machines and DJs, still I try to make the old new, if I can put it like that. The natural, unamplified sound at Café Laurent, and the possibility to improvise in such an intimate context: this is very important for me.

And I’ve been lucky enough to play with many special muscians, from all over, such as – to give a few names only – Stéphane Mercier (Belgium), Fabien Mary (FranceJ, Michael Brockman (USA), Martin Jacobsen (Denmark), Maÿas Szandai (Hungary), Mauro Borghezan (Brazil) and, of course, my trio with – most often – Bruno Schorp on bass and Pier Paolo. « Today people talk about European jazz but really in art there are no frontiers. Cinema, painting and sculpture play a very important part in my life and I could say that, for me, to disappear into the sound is the most important thing: thinking of music like a painter or sculptor, blending things, trying to translate sensations and emotions with truth or integrity – always trying for something more, something … further. »

By Michael Tucker