Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Anderson Twins in Le Jazz Hot: How the French Saved Jazz

L-R: Peter Anderson (clarinet), Will Anderson (sax), Luc Decker (drums), Clovis Nicolas (bass) and Alex Wintz (guitar) in LE JAZZ HOT: HOW THE FRENCH SAVED JAZZ.  Photo by Eileen O'Donnell.

I first saw the Anderson twins (Peter and Will) at 59E59 Theaters some fifteen months ago when they channeled Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey in The Anderson Twins Play the Fabulous Dorseys That production was a multi-media work consisting of film clips of the Dorseys, some stilted dialogue by the Andersons (intended to suggest the Dorsey’s own sibling rivalry), and remarkably good musical renditions by Peter and Will (accompanied by four other very talented musicians).  I loved the music but was less impressed by everything else about that production.

Now the Anderson twins are back at 59E59 Theaters in another multi-media production of their own making – Le Jazz Hot: How the French Saved Jazz – and this time they have done everything just right.  This is, in short, a terrific show in all respects.  Not surprisingly, the music again is wonderful (the Anderson twins are extremely talented, after all, and they are accompanied here by three other very accomplished musicians (Randy Napoleon or Alex Wintz on guitar, Clovis Nicolas or Neil Miner on bass, and Luc Decker or Phil Stewart on drums).  But what really distinguishes Le Jazz Hot from Fabulous Dorseys is the way in which the film clips in this production have been integrated into this work in a manner that enriches and enhances its musical aspects rather than detracts from them.

Quincy Jones once said that “If it weren’t for France, jazz would be dead,” alluding to the fact that in the post World War II period, hundreds of American jazz musicians (including Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Josephine Baker, Sidney Bechet, and Kenny Clarke) performed in France before larger audiences than were available to them in America.  In Le Jazz Hot, the Anderson’s quintet delivers top flight renditions of some exceptional pieces composed by or associated with the greatest jazz artists of all time, including Django Reinhardt’s Nuages, Sidney Bechet’s Promenade aux Champs-Elysees, Josephine Baker’s There’s a Small Hotel, Louis Armstrong’s C’est Si Bon, Duke Ellington’s Degas Suite, and Dizzy Gillespies’s Tour de Force – all performed against a backdrop of film clips of interviews with or performances by the historic artists themselves.

In the show’s penultimate set, the quintet delivers an unusual jazz interpretation of Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune while on screen we are treated to a six minute segment from the film The Red Balloon.  It is a delightful and charming juxtaposition that adds emotional depth to the evening’s performance.

And what better way to end the show than with Cole Porter’s I Love Paris?  If you already love jazz or Paris or both (and, really, who doesn’t?), you’ll love this show.  And if you are one of the few who doesn’t love jazz or Paris or both, I’d be willing to wager that once you’ve seen this show, you will.

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