Thomas Dutronc – Frenchy
||C’est Si Bon feat. Iggy Pop & Diana Krall
||La Vie en Rose feat. Billy Gibbons
||Plus Je T’Embrasse
||Playground Love feat. Youn Sun Nah
||Un Homme et Une Femme feat. Stacey Kent
||Beyond the Sea (La Mer)
||All For You (Nuages)
||If You Go Away (Ne Me Quitte Pas) feat. Haley Reinhart
||Autumn Leaves (Les Feuilles Mortes)
||My Way (Comme D’Habitude)
||The Good Life (La Belle Vie) feat. Jeff Goldblum
Oh-la-la, französischer wird’s nicht: Sänger und Gitarrist THOMAS DUTRONC nimmt auf seinem fünften Album die großen Klassiker der französischen Pop-Musik ins Visier und lädt dazu erlesene internationale Gäste ein.
Die Musik wurde Dutronc bekanntermaßen als Sohn der beiden Gesangslegenden Francoise Hardy und Jacques Dutronc in die Wiege gelegt. Obwohl er sich zunächst mehr für Fotografie interessierte, gewann seine Begeisterung für die Gitarre und vor allen Dingen den Swing-Sound von Django Reinhardt die Überhand. Bevor er sich versah, fand Dutronc sich, wie seine Eltern Jahrzehnte vorher, in einer Musikkarriere wieder – mit rasant wachsendem Erfolg.
Nach vier Alben, bedeutenden Musikpreisen und Hunderten von Konzerten in Frankreich kehrt Dutronc jetzt mit einem internationalen Album zurück, das sich mit den größten Klassikern des populären französischen Musikerbes befasst. In relaxed swingendem Pop-Jazz-Sound würdigt er das Werk der großen französischen Songwriter, deren Melodien die Welt erobert haben. Neben Riesenklassiker wie „C’est Si Bon”, “Autumn Leaves” oder den Ohrwurm aus dem Liebesfilm „Ein Mann und eine Frau“ schummelt er allerdings auch den sehr modernen Klassiker „Get Lucky“ von Daft Punk.
Eine Reise nach Frankreich unternimmt jeder gern, und so war es für Dutronc nicht schwierig, die internationalen Gaststars DIANA KRALL, IGGY POP, BILLY GIBBONS (ZZ TOP), JEFF GOLDBLUM, HALEY REINHARDT, YOUN SUN NAH & STACEY KENT zur Mitwirkung zu überreden.
Produziert hat das Album JAY NEWLAND (Norah Jones, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Johnny Hallyday), begleitet wird der singende Gitarrist Dutronc von den Jazzmusikern ERIC LEGNINI, ROCKY GRESSET und DENI BENARROSH.
La Vie en rose, C’est si bon, La Belle vie, Les Feuilles mortes, La mer: archetypally French songs that echoed through the streets of Paris, spreading from the capital’s courtyards to popular dances with their accordion music and jazz clubs. They then crossed the Atlantic before returning with English lyrics sung by artists such as Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin and Nina Simone. Here they are again, still possessed of the same sparkling swing but given a new and modern touch by Thomas Dutronc on Frenchy. His fourth album features 14 utterly French songs, all born in France, some of them at the turn of last century, others far more recently. Thomas breathes new life into them as he introduces different sounds, from lounge, cool and retro-cool to, occasionally, trashy and funky vibes. He sings them in French and/or English, as a duo or trio, with illustrious guest performers from the worlds of rock, punk, jazz and pop, including Iggy Pop, Diana Krall, Billy Gibbons (from ZZ Top), Jeff Goldblum and Haley Reinhart.
The godfathers of French chanson – Charles Trénet, Stéphane Grappelli and Sidney Bechett – rub shoulder with the chart-toppers of the 1960s – Sacha Distel, Jacques Brel, Claude François and Francis Lai – and electro French touch wizards (Air and Daft Punk). In his quest to revamp these classics with inventive arrangements and a dazzling dash of purity, Thomas called on the services of jazz and pop virtuosos: Frenchy was recorded and mixed by Jay Newland, who has worked with Norah Jones, Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder, at Studio de la Seine in Paris as well as in New York, Miami and Los Angeles. And performed by the crème de la crème.
“Where I’m coming from is the music I used to listen to as a child, my parents’ music, Alain Souchon, Véronique Sanson, Eddy Mitchell, Serge Gainsbourg,” explains Thomas Dutronc. “My grandmother used to tell me how Charles Trénet, the ‘crazy singer’, broke the mould. When I began playing guitar, I was mad about the blues, played by John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Jimi Hendrix and Chuck Berry. Then I discovered Django Reinhardt and all those gorgeous tracks with jazzmen having fun improvising, and I was bowled over. We had our own Mississippi.” The story of the French Mississippi is marked by Prévert and Kosma’s Les Feuilles mortes (dead leaves) fluttering to the strains of music written for a Roland Petit ballet before Yves Montand adopted them. A hymn to happiness, C’est si bon, composed by Henri Betti, Maurice Chevalier’s pianist, began life in front of a lingerie shop window on Avenue Jean Médecin in Nice. The song blossomed thanks to recordings by artists including Yves Montand, again, Jean Sablon and Dean Martin. And as for La vie en rose, that magnificent ode to lovers, it started out as a scribble on a café table by Edith Piaf, in love with the ever-present Montand. Since then, even Madonna has covered it.
Frenchy is the enchanted triumph of all those passionate nights, resplendent dawns and glorious mornings created by yesterday and today’s French lovers. The album opens with C’est si bon, performed as a trio in French and English, an explosion of swing and sensuality where Iggy Pop’s cavernous growl fuses with Diana Krall’s warmth and Thomas Dutronc’s gentleness. “The session lasted three hours in Miami. Diana gave me a complement and I was over the moon. I knew Iggy a little. He’s great, he left all tanned in his white, open-top Rolls, taking off his t-shirt. The greats are always professional and kind.” One by one, the album reveals further treasures, exquisite and surprising. In La Vie en rose, the smoky voice of ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons mingles with Thomas’ tones, taking the classic in a totally new direction with the two male voices offering a languid, whistling, wafting version. “Billy’s presence is something of a miracle. He’s a fan of BB King, who in turn is a fan of Django. Billy turned up in Los Angeles with that fabulous face and insane look of his, and it was all done in a single take. He played a few notes on his guitar while I whistled. Fabulous.”
Thomas Dutronc’s voice as it caresses these standards has never been so warm or flowing, blooming in a solo on La Mer and My Way, fleshing out and swinging on Plus je t’embrasse, Ben Ryan’s 1926 hit and JFK’s favourite song. It’s the only track on Frenchy composed by an American, although it was popularised with a French version by Les Soeurs Etienne. Thomas takes it on with an amused twinkle and American accent, giving it a rousing, brisk, optimistic feel ornamented with a piano-guitar instrumental. “We were swinging old style, like Nat King Cole.” Because Frenchy draws on the skills of a superb French quartet. Rocky Gresset and his soaring guitar, described by Thomas as having “a musicality, an ear, he really is flawless. Rocky is our secret weapon.” Eric Legnini who achieves musical feats on the Rhodes piano: “he’s a delightful person, a virtuoso musician who doesn’t insist on being an unbending jazz purist.” Thomas Bramerie’s double bass scatters shadows and light over the rivers of delicate notes: “I love his style, his groove.” Denis Benarrosh makes his drums sing: “his tempo is just perfect, the sounds he produces are magical.”
And there’s something magical in the way the album tackles the most daring of challenges: for example, adding a jazzy layer to Daft Punk’s Get Lucky to create an innovative rhythm. “I’m a big fan of Daft Punk, I like the electro journeys they take us on which are comparable to jazz, you’re pulled into a story, you listen to a first instrument, then a second arrives, and so on. In the studio, we started off jamming, two takes did it, we kept the second, half jazz, half funk, with disco strings at the end.” Air’s Playground love provided a new space to play around in, beginning with the sombre landscape created by Stéphane Belmondo’s blistering trumpet, cloaked in Denis Benarrosh’s organic beat. A muted setting that brings out the sensuality of South Korean jazz singer Youn Sun Nah. “Playground Love is a duo without actually being a duo, because we’re not really singing together. Youn Sun mastered some difficult keys with amazing skill.”
Another remarkable voice, Jeff Goldbum’s, can be heard on The Good Life (La Belle Vie), with English lyrics by Tony Bennett – who gave his autobiography the same title. Sacha Distel’s song originally illustrated L’Orgueil, one of the chapters in Les Sept pêchés capitaux, the 1962 Roger Vadim film, and was called Marina (named after the actress in the chapter, Marina Vlady). Goldblum, a worthy successor to the rat pack, lights it up with a cinematographic quality: “I ran into him on a Michel Drucker TV set and we got on really well. Jeff is now launching a career as a singer and pianist so he was totally on board. I’m hugely proud to have him on the album, he sings a bit like an actor, he really lives the song.” The duos often come across as real movie scenes. Ne me quitte pas features Haley Reinhart, who came to fame on American Idol, with an interpretation overflowing with strings and emotion. “An amazing feeling.” The stroll on the beach at Deauville in Un Homme et une femme is replayed with Stacey Kent – “her voice really moves me” – accompanied by accordion chords from the great Marc Berthoumieux.
In Thomas Dutronc’s private musical laboratory, three songs take pride of place. Sidney Bechett’s Petite fleur. “Bechett is American but he lived in France and that’s where he composed this sensual, Latin song steeped in nostalgia. It’s one of my favourites.” Django Reinhardt is at the heart of the other two, Nuages (All for You) and Minor Swing (co-written with Stéphane Grappelli). Thomas Dutronc’s whole soul is in these jazz gems. “It’s true, I started out as an instrumentalist and have gone back to the tunes I’ve been playing forever.” We also get to hear his friend Jérôme Ciosi’s ukulele and a bandoneon played by the master, Michel Portal.
Frenchy creates a world that swings, tinted by rosy hues, where life flows joyfully and peacefully, away from the currents, to the sounds of lounge and cool jazz. A procession of songs clad in mohair and silk encourage us to get up close and personal. It’s a venture that works, modern, delicate, erudite, profound and elegant, unshakeably stylish and international to boot, with the album released by Blue Note in France and Verve in the USA. The soundtrack to a marvellous film, timeless, contemporary and classy.
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