Le Jazz Hot: How the French Saved Jazz

Credit: Eileen O'Donnell

Credit: Eileen O’Donnell

Quincy Jones said, “If it weren’t for France, jazz would be dead.”  That was enough to set Pete and Will Anderson off on a mission.  And we are the beneficiaries.

I was raised on big band music.  It made up the entirety of my father’s extensive collection of 78’s.  Our family sang the music as my parents did when they were coming up: acapella with a lot of harmony.  In later years my mother would remark that listening to us kids sing together was the only time she thought of us as hers.  Go figure.  Anyway, because of my parents love for this music, the sound of a clarinet is to me a balm for anything that ails me.  So the sound of two (count ‘em) clarinets played with skill, grace and joy nearly launches me off the planet.

Coming upon the Anderson Twins was like visiting home without the agita.

The ONLY thing a little dull about this duo is their name.  I mean, how white-bread can you get?  Anderson?  Seriously?  But if you have the pleasure of seeing this show, you will understand that the name is just what it is: their name.

What they ARE is a whole different caboodle.

The Anderson Twins, Will (parts his hair on the left) and Peter (on the on the right) are identical enough to be recognized as twins, but not so much that you would confuse one with the other.  Each has his own style, both in dress (pin stripe suit vs. simple grey; raspberry paisley tie vs. blue with tiny white dots) and in performing: Will takes on a lighter lyrical style and Pete holds the fort down with a firm grip on the rhythm and the lower register.  Of course they cross over with shared instruments as well – clarinet and saxophone.  Joined by their extraordinary partners on the night I was there  Luc Decker (drums), Clovis Nicolas (bass) and Randy Napoleon (guitar) these two make beautiful music indeed.

Le Jazz Hot: How the French Saved Jazz is not only entertainment, it is education as well.  The Anderson Twins are not satisfied with mere excellent entertainment.  They want us to know whence this music came, and how it almost didn’t.  Using video as well as stories they celebrate Sydney Bechet, a horn player who found a home in Europe and specifically in France in 1925 with La Revue Nègre that was to make a star out of Josephine BakerBaker became not only one of the richest and most influential artists in Europe, she was an enormous presence in the Civil Rights Movement here in the 1960’s.   When she died she was buried with full French Military honors.  Django Rinehart was a Gypsy living outside Paris, who lost the use of his 4th and 5th finger on his left hand, causing him to create a unique style of jazz guitar.  Vernon Duke gets a nod with a haunting guitar solo of April in Paris by Randy Napoleon.  Bud Powell – the Charlie Parker of the piano – who in spite of some serious blows in life was a musical marvel. Dizzy Gillespie, Kenny Clarke and Duke Ellington are featured with history and song.  The evening ends with a final reach back even further to Ravel and Debussy.  The Andersons may have been influenced by the rush and flush of the 1930’s Paris scene, but they know that those musicians were influenced by preceding artists.

And so it goes.  The evening ends with a tribute to Debussy and Paris with Claire de Lune in the air and The Red Balloon (an abbreviated version) on the screen.

Lest this sound like a dry musical lecture – it is way more than that.  The Anderson’s interest in music history is matched by their skill as well as their passion.  These are two men you will want to follow for many years.  They are fantastic now – how they will grow will be a total pleasure to watch.

PS – These two are featured performers every Thursday night at 9PM (resuming in January) at 59E59’s bar.  They pay special tribute to Elysabeth Kleinhans, Artistic Director, and Peter Tear, Executive Producer, who have made not only a home for the Andersons, but have created one of the most vibrant theatrical venues in New York.

LE JAZZ HOT: HOW THE FRENCH SAVED JAZZ   – The Anderson Twins

(Elysabeth Kleinhans, Artistic Director; Peter Tear, Executive Producer) is thrilled to present LE JAZZ HOT: HOW THE FRENCH SAVED JAZZ, created by Peter and Will Anderson and featuring their jazz quintet. Through Sunday, December 29. he performance schedule is Tuesday – Thursday at 7:30 PM; Friday at 8:30 PM; & Saturday at 5:30 PM & 8:30 PM; and Sunday at 3:30 PM & 7:30 PM. Please note, there is no performance on December 25 and an additional performance on Friday, December 27 at 5:30 PM. Performances are at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues). Tickets are $25 ($17.50 for 59E59 Members) for performances through December 15; $35 ($24.50 for 59E59 Members) for performances through December 29. To purchase tickets, call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 or go to www.5ge59.org.

Tulis McCall

Author: Tulis McCall

For my money, the theatre is up there in the ten top reasons to be human. I leave my home and go sit in a dark room with complete strangers and watch actors do their stuff because I want to be inspired. I’m asking to be involved. I’m volunteering to be led down any old path they choose as long as they don’t let go of my hand. And if I see a show, and it is NOT so very good – I will try to divert you, because I don’t want you to come to the temple when the preaching isn’t up to snuff. I will bar the door, I will swing from rafters, I will yell FIRE just to set your feet on a path that does not lead to disappointment. Do something different with your evening I will say. Save your money for dinner with a friend you haven’t seen in months because you are too frigging busy. Go take a walk with your dog or your child or your significant other. Go to bed early, I will say. Don’t come to the theatre when it is less than it can be. I’m an usher snob, and that’s all there is to it.

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