The Lost Crooners
would be a great name for a band or, better still, a Roberto Bolaño
novel. It's also the name of the enigmatic new trio recording by bassist Daniel Yvinec, just named next musical director of France's National Jazz Orchestra
Seven of the originals on the disc were recorded, at one point or another, by that crooner par excellence, Frank Sinatra
. But here the mystery begins. Sinatra's crooning goes back to his teen- idol days fronting the Tommy Dorsey
Orchestra. "Crooning" itself evokes youthful exuberance, a romantic Zeitgeist. The music on this record alludes, instead, to the latter-day Sinatra: ruing the loss of that ephemeral innocence, with a dash of Brazilian world weary decadence, not unlike the taciturn and peripatetic poet/dope dealers in Bolañ'os The Savage Detectives
To begin with, there is the trio's cool approach to the emotional content of this material; reminiscent of Yvinec's earlier collaboration with pianist Guillaume de Chassy
, Ghost of a Song
(Juste une Trace, 2003), where the duo played a number of standards without ever playing the themes. Oh, they play the familiar themes on The Lost Crooners
, but not always, and not right away. This has the effect of making the familiar strange.
Then there's the band. Franco-Brazilian guitarist Nelson Veras has an astonishing virtuosity, but with a weird and unsettling phrasing that owes its genealogy to Thelonious Monk
by way of James Blood Ulmer
, exemplified by his playing on "Alone Together."
Drummer Stéphane Galland, like Paul Motian, restlessly refuses to settle into a groove, at least not for long; catching himself during "Everything Happens To Me." Galland's work on "I Fall In Love Too Easily" and "If I Should Lose You" is pure drumming delight.
The line-up is slightly modified on a few numbers. Pianist Benoît Delbecq replaces Veras on a couple of numbers, among them Charlie Chaplin's "Smile," with a similar effect.
This resistance of Veras and Gallandwho also played excellently on bassist Christophe Wallemme's Namaste
(Bee Jazz, 2006)to succumb to the songs' sweetness recalls the aging crooner, the older Sinatra, cigarette and Scotch in hand. There are two exceptions: trumpeter Médéric Collignon's relatively straight readings, notably of "Moon River," and the core trio's rendition of Gordon Jenkins's elegiac "Goodbye."
Amidst all this, Yvinec's bass is smooth and stolid, lovingly stating the melodies when he can, always providing a comfortable harmonic architecture for the songs. There is no self-conscious distancing of himself from the material; he loves these songs, he thinks they're pretty, he wants to play them prettily. Indeed, therein lays the answer to the mystery posed by the album's title: the lost crooner is Yvinec himself.
Personnel: Daniel Yvinec: double-bass; Nelson Veras: guitar; Stéphane
Galland: drums; Benoît Delbecq: piano (5, 9, 10);
Médéric Collignon: pocket trumpet, vocal (3, 7, 14, 17).