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New Orleans To Lyon Volumes 1 & 2 by French Preservation New Orleans Jazz Band

Perhaps you are very unaware of the French Preservation Jazz Band. Based in Lyon, France, the New Orleans style octet is well known in the Crescent City itself. The energetic band played the French Quarter Jazz Festival regularly since 2001. Make a note on your calendar. This year they appear on the Continental Airlines International Stage in the 400 block of Bourbon Street. The festival runs from April 8th through 10th. The French jazz band is no stranger to gigs in New Orleans and have graced the stage at Preservation Hall, the Storyville Jazz Club and Palm Court Café.

The new session was recorded in Lyon in October 2004 at Restaurant Le Prisca a Villeurbanne. Two renowned guests were recruited for the performance. John Royen is one of the busiest pianists in New Orleans and appears on literally dozens of albums. Born in Washington, DC, Royen moved to the Crescent City in the 1970s. The youthful looking piano man learned his craft under the tutelage of Don Ewell. My introduction to Royen’s capability was when a friend demonstrated his recording with The Louisiana Repertory Jazz Ensemble.

The other, and equally important guest, is the Danish clarinetist, Kjeld Brandt. Brandt heads the highly successful band New Orleans Delight based in Copenhagen and loved all over Europe. Kjeld is a humble individual who always seems surprised when critics praise his work. A purist from the start, Brandt plays a vintage Boehm system metal clarinet and is an expert on the history of the instrument in early jazz. He follows in the steps of George Lewis, Louis Cottrell, Albert Burbank and Omer Simeon. New Orleans Delight is one of my favorite bands.

Jean-Pierre Alessi is another purist and expert in the history of jazz in Louisiana. His idol is the late Emmanuel "Manny" Paul, a veteran tenor player who was everywhere New Orleans jazz was played. Like Kjeld Brandt, Alessi is a vintage instrument enthusiast and plays a 1938 Martin Indiana saxophone. He also owns an old Conn from the twenties, the same as Capn’ John Handy used to play.

The French Preservation Jazz Band has a repertoire of tunes based upon the New Orleans revival period of 1940 to 1970 and played by the bands of Kid Thomas Valentine, Capn’ John Handy, George Lewis, Jim Robinson and especially Manny Paul. The band is passionate and boisterous, always having fun. The enthusiasm easily transfers to the audience. It’s a good time to crank up the volume and find your dancin’ shoes.

Some tunes merit a special mention. A Handful Of Keys, the old Waller favorite features John Royen. Royen and Kjeld Brandt share the spotlight on Old Rugged Cross and it’s my number one pick on Volume 1. Clarinetist Brandt also steals the show on the beautiful hymn In The Upper Garden. Volume 2 has some great stuff too. The old Fred Melrose country piece, Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain kicks off the set. John Royen shows his eight beat skills with Melanie’s Boogie and the entire band has great fun with Big Bad Bully, a tune that is new to my ears. Jean-Pierre Alessi really tears loose on a great arrangement of Tiger Rag. My pick of the crop on the second volume is certainly the fabulous version of Sister Kate. John Royen takes a solo sounding more like "Jelly" than Morton himself.

The French Preservation New Orleans Jazz Band is a loose cannon wielding a lot of power. Trumpeter Alain Martien and trombonist Frederic Espinoux are powerful players in the styles of Armstrong and Ory. The rhythm section of Henry Lemaire, Guillaume Gerdil and Herlin Mc Fly does and admirable job throughout the two volumes. It’s a happy and energetic band. Good stuff!

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: French Preservation New Orleans Jazz Band
  • CD Title: New Orleans To Lyon Volumes 1 & 2
  • Genre: Traditional / New Orleans
  • Year Released: 2005
  • Record Label: Jazz Crusade
  • Tracks: Volume 1: In The Sweet Bye & Bye; Hindustan; Chinatown, My Chinatown; In The Upper Garden; Ice Cream; Old Rugged Cross; A Handful Of Keys; Sail Along Silvery Moon; Shine; Algiers Strut; My Blue Heaven. Volume 2: Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain; Melanie’s Boogie; Big Bad Bully; Uptown Bumps; Four Leaf Clover; Sister Kate; Tiger Rag; Saint Louis Blues; The Second Line; Should I?; Darktown Strutters’ Ball.
  • Musicians: Jean-Pierre Alessi (leader, tenor sax, alto sax); Alain Martien (trumpet); Frederic Espinoux (trombone); Henry Lemaire (banjo); Guillaume Gerdil (string bass); Herlin Mc Fly (drums). Special guests: John Royen (piano); Kjeld Brandt (clarinet).
  • Rating: Four Stars
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