Benoit Viellefon’s suave, sophisticated French jazz has been packing out UK venues for the past five years. He’s an enigmatic vocalist and guitarist whose live shows present a master class in Gallic charm. Recorded at London’s Porcupine Studios this January, his third LP Mon Amour, carries on the tradition with fourteen tracks of majestic swing.
Benoit’s sound is typified by bouncing double bass and a fine rhythm section over which lively brass passages jump out from my record player.
Take for instance his take on the Buck Clayton classic “Ferme La Bouche”. Singing in his native French Benoit’s voice possesses enviable rhythm as he raves like a crazed Frenchman through a lively call and response section. He also sings in French on the title track, notable for a gloriously phrased piano solo by Joseph Webb, principal arranger on this set. Upbeat minor key numbers cluster at the midpoint of the album. Interpretations of “Egyptian Ella”, “Every Time I Hear That Mellow Saxophone” and Ray Noble’s “My Woman“ would liven the dullest of parties and – presented as a Christmas gift – would have the potential to shake your Grandmother to her foundations.
Best of all however is Benoit’s own his own composition “My Dog is A Gypsy” – a toe-tapping powerhouse of a number whose gorgeous clarinet solo by Dave Shulmam is the highlight of this album for me. Shulman’s soloing is superb throughout.
The album concludes with Benoit’s take on some eternal standards. “Cheek to Cheek” kicks off with another gorgeous call and response. The vocal refrain as cheeky as the title here with a charming display of H muet.
“Pennies from Heaven” kicks in with a nice Louis Prima type shuffle, punctuated by classy brass licks and terrific solos from Shulman on sax Yorkshireman Pete Horsfall on trumpet. All it remains for me to do is pour a pint of Merlot, light up a Gauloise and push my beret to the jauntiest of angles.