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Eric Le Lann: I Remember Chet

Jeff Dayton-Johnson By

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French trumpeter Eric Le Lann has a bit part in Bertrand Tavernier's 1986 film Round Midnight, the story of a French jazz fan's friendship with wayward American jazz musician Dale Turner, played by tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon. Le Lann plays a French jazz trumpeter—not much of a stretch. More to the point, the film's story mirrored, however approximately, an episode in his own life, in which Le Lann befriended the expatriate Chet Baker during the latter's troubled final decade.

On I Remember Chet, Le Lann pays tribute to the older trumpeter, a quarter century after his death. The record features a cross section of tunes closely associated with Baker; the sole original, Le Lann's "Backtime," fits in well enough.

Le Lann's playing would not likely be mistaken for Baker's, but the record makes clear his affinity for several key features of the late trumpeter's playing: particularly, a singing tone, a swinging sense of time and a certain tenderness. At the same time, Le Lann's playing is steely and more forthright than Baker's vulnerable sound. Le Lann favors the lower to middle portion of the trumpet's range. Most important, Le Lann is not in the least intimidated by Baker's mythic reputation, and he and his trio turn in a remarkably strong and satisfying performance.

The record's instrumentation is spare: trumpet accompanied only by Nelson Veras' acoustic guitar and Gildas Boclé's double bass. The Franco-Brazilian guitarist has an enigmatic style, never approaching a solo in a predictable way, never hewing too closely to the written melody but, at the same time, restrained and reverent. As a sideman on this project, Veras is excellent, maintaining a level of improvisational complexity that nicely complements Le Lann's directness. In fact, at times it sounds like Le Lann is encouraged by Veras' elliptical sensibility to develop solos that float a little more freely from the songs' melodic mooring.

Bassist Boclé, meanwhile, is essentially the sole rhythm instrument (Veras is particularly minimalist when he is not soloing, and on a particularly sunny "The Touch of Your Lips," he is absent altogether). Boclé provides a solid beat on what is, after all, a fairly swinging session.

Track Listing: For Minors Only; If I Should Care; The More I See You; I Am A Fool To Want You; Summertime; The Touch Of Your Lips; Milestones; Zingaro; Love For Sale; Angel Eyes; Backtime.

Personnel: Eric Le Lann: trumpet; Nelson Veras: guitar; Gildas Boclé: double bass.

Title: I Remember Chet | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Bee Jazz

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