Evan Christopher – clarinet
David Blenkhorn – guitar
Julien Brunetaud – piano
Sebastien Girardot – bass
Guillaume Nouaux – drums
When Evan Christopher came to Paris with his clarinet and formed a band to perform New Orleans music, it was natural to think of Sidney Bechet. “In Sidney’s Footsteps” was recorded at Mesa studios in early 2006, during Christopher’s artist-in-residence at the invitation of the city of Paris just months after the city of New Orleans was decimated by catastrophic flooding. He used the opportunity to form his “Jazz Traditions Project,” a band of the best France-based musicians deeply commited to New Orleans music, to perform in Paris clubs and European festivals.
The “Jazz Traditions Project” also recorded a live CD, “Introduction: Live at the Meridien” at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Club, and was active until 2008, when Christopher returned to New Orleans and focused his energies on touring internationally with his popular Django à la Créole. STR Digital agreed to release the studio material as the third volume of Christopher’s “Clarinet Road” series but had to wait until 2012 because of other CD releases.
“In Sidney’s Footsteps,” marks the return of the “Jazz Traditions Project” performing music that celebrates and aims to extend the legacy of New Orleans traditions. With Sèbastien Girardot (bass), David Blenkhorn (guitar), and Guillaume Nouaux (drums) the CD features spirited versions of Bechet gems, some carefully chosen standards and even a Boogie-Woogie composed for the session to feature guest pianist Julien Brunetaud who fills out the group whenever possible.
More often what usually comes to mind when you think of a jazz duo, is a combination of voice with instrumental accompaniment. Although at the end of the tracks, within this delightful selection of various interpretations, an unpretentious vocal is rendered by guitarist David Blenkhorn. This collaboration between guitar and contra-bassist Sebastien Girardot delivers a fresh, captivating selection of songs that epitomize musical intimacy.
The disc opens with a fresh arrangement on an old spiritual and mainstay within the traditional jazz repertoire, Just A Closer Walk With Thee. Beginning with a rubato intro, guitar and arco bass, they dance into a jubilant stroll establishing a definitive tempo in 3⁄4 time. With bass switching to pizzicato, a bass line and strong groove is maintained throughout, allowing the guitar to embellish on the melody, expanding rhythmically and harmonically to a climax, with the theme being stated once again, exiting the way they entered and finally vamping out, a tempo, this time with the jaunty bass line being established by the guitar.
I could go on and on about how nice this recording turned out. But when music is great, there’s really no room for criticism. Simply a smile of joy is an appropriate riposte. Finally, I thought it was necessary to set the mood with a detailed description of the opening track, which in my opinion gives a clear expectation of what is yet to come. Besides, there should be some space left for words from someone else who enjoys this recording as much as I do. Well done, my gifted brothers!
Its the Paris-Sydney Swing Connection playing the Gypsy and Just You Just Me at JazzAscona 2010, with Ehud Asherie sitting in on piano (George Washingmachine, Michel Pastre, David Blenkhorn, Sebastien Girardot and Guillaume Nouaux) :
“4 ETOILES” JAZZMAN
“SELECTION” JAZZ HOT
“PLAYLIST” RADIO TSF
“PLAYLIST” RADIO WWOZ (USA)
“DISQUES DU MOIS” JAZZ MAGAZINE
“LE JOURNAL DE L’ILE” (LA REUNION)
“SELECTION” KING JAZZ REVIEW (U.K)
“SELECTION RAYON LASER” BATTEUR MAGAZINE
“DISQUE DU MOIS” BULLETIN DU HOT CLUB DE FRANCE
The Observer UK
04.05.2008 – Django à la Créole
As ‘fusion’ projects go, this looks a bit unlikely at first glance. Fiery European Gypsy jazz and the limpid Creole clarinet style of New Orleans may not seem like natural bedfellows, but the result is enchanting. Clarinettist Evan Christopher has been winning awards since the age of 11. His tone is gorgeously light and fluffy and he creates sparkling improvisations, while guitarists Dave Blenkhorn and Dave Kelbie and bassist Sebastien Girardot supply spirited accompaniment. Django Reinhardt’s tunes have rarely been more sensitively played, and old warhorses like ‘Farewell Blues’ sound fresh and new.
The Times UK
04.05.2008 – Django à la Créole
It’s only a matter of months ago that the thirtysomething New Orleans clarinet revivalist Evan Christopher set out his wares on Delta Bound. His latest outing turns out to be an equally confident mixture of Crescent City passion and je ne sais quoi. Christopher possesses a ravishing tone and receives unfailingly crisp support from the double-bassist Sebastien Girardot and guitarists Dave Blenkhorn and Dave Kelbie. Even that old Reinhardt standby Nuages sounds fresh, the rhythm section dancing a gentle beguine in the background. And Christopher shifts gear into Benny Goodmanesque swing on the ultra-brisk I Know That You Know. Timeless stuff.
Wall Street Journal USA
13.09.2008 – Django à la Créole
Clarinetist Evan Christopher, a California native, moved to New Orleans in 1994. In his frequent duets with Tom McDermott, and as a standout member of trumpeter Irvin Mayfield’s New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, his erudite and personalized approach to traditional jazz commands attention. After Katrina, Mr. Christopher relocated to Paris for two years. There, he formed two new bands: Django à la Créole, featured on this CD, revisits the storied Hot Club band co-founded by guitarist Django Reinhardt, distilling and emphasizing that music’s New Orleans elements. Mr. Christopher draws particular inspiration from Mr. Reinhardt’s work with clarinetists, including Ellington sideman and New Orleans native Barney Bigard.
Beginning with the habanera beat dancing beneath “Douce Ambience,” the bass and rhythm guitar of Mr. Christopher’s drummerless quartet announce a strong rhythmic emphasis. But it’s Mr. Christopher’s finely calibrated control — his fluid lines, piercing high notes, and exquisite quiver of vibrato — and his rapport with the equally expressive guitarist Dave Blenkhorn that steal the show. This is repertory music of the best kind: informed by sincere study, yet never derivative; playful, more so than reverent; aimed at extending, not rehashing, a legacy.