Review: Blues Matters Record of the month!

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Live at the Quecumbar

JohnJohn Records JJR-CD-005
Genre – Vintage Swing and Jazz
Star rating 9/10

Benoit Viellefon and his Orchestra are one of the most successful up and coming acts on the London scene; this highly entertaining album of swing and jazz is Benoit’s second album, it has a classic vintage sound. Bandleader Benoit sings and plays guitar, he was involved in the London blues scene and with various bands. Success has come through focusing his lifelong love of vintage styles into his own band. For this second album he switches to the sound and style reminiscent of the legendary Hot Club of Paris which famously starred Django Reinhardt and Stefan Grappelli. He has called it Hot Club and made some minor alterations to the line-up including the addition of Pedro Velasco on guitar.

The album is recorded at the Quecumbar a London venue specializing in gypsy jazz. The venue is already close to legendary status, being one of the few venues in Europe dedicated to such music. The recording successfully sets out to replicate the way the original Hot Club was recorded and to invoke the ambience of their shows. All of the instruments were acoustic with two condenser microphones placed in front of the stage. There is no mixing and the sound is an exact replication of what the gig sounded like. The result is an excellent record of a memorable evening. The heart of Benoit’s equation is ‘style and entertainment’ – this is music with a big smile on its face that communicates directly to the audience; the resulting chemistry is something extraordinary.

Benoit draws on the music of Django, Duke, French chanson and the classic American songbook and also nods to other European influences. The opener sets the tone; ‘Douce Ambience,’ a Django classic; it sets the feet tapping and for the keen listener Benoit plays a lovely chromatic chord run-down late in the song. The album continues through Benoit’s own ‘Mon Amour’, and on into a classic French valse musette ‘Coeur Vagabond’ – this tune stirred the memory of some of our team – a wonderful melody remembered from the days when such music was played on the radio.

Track 5 is one of the album’s highlights; Duke Ellington’s classic ‘Caravan’ – this is seven minutes of swing heaven and everybody is obviously having a ball. The music runs on – classics like ‘Daphne’, ‘Whispering’, ‘It Don’t Mean a Thing’ (another highlight) and for us the best of all ‘Flambee Montalbanaise’ another classic Valse musette that features some truly scintillating guitar. There’s a surprise a swing version of ‘The Godfather’ it works very well and everybody lets their hair down. Benoit’s own ‘My Dog is a Gypsy’, the Hot Club classic ‘Minor Swing’ lead to a riotous closer: it’s an eleven minute version of ‘Dark Eyes’. It concludes what was obviously a great evening. Congratulations to Benoit and his musicians for producing an album of great music with the word ‘entertainment’ at the heart of it. This is highly recommended and we’re going to search out more of that wonderful French music – there are great treasures to be mined and Benoit has opened the door.

Review Team

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