Le French May’s Live Jazz Series in Hong Kong

Rob Garratt By

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Gradually the musicians relaxed into their roles, with Darche stretching out over a gorgeous "Body and Soul," eeking a husky tone from the lower register of his alto sax, bluesily slurring notes with an equal share of invention and indolence. While this time playing sideman, the reedsman roundly stole the spotlight from his bandleader, who seemed quite content with the arrangement. Playing with the uncluttered air of a diligent technician, Cholet comps in sharp, staccato chord stabs, and is an equally economic soloist—his precise, studied lead runs never feel remotely close to either careening out of control, or raising pulses beyond resting. Almost invariably, improvisations fizzle out into a lazy round of big block chords and turnarounds.

Thankfully, it swung—countering by the workmanlike feel of bassist Stéphane Kerecki was drummer Christopher Lavergne, who all-but saved the enterprise with verve and goodwill alone. Flitting between brushes, sticks—and in the case of rousing closer "St. Thomas," his bare hands—Lavergne absentmindedly implored his kit with the loving disdain of a child he is disappointedly telling off. Of course, ending on Sonny Rollins' American standard would have chimed all wrong in these climes, so the quartet returned to the stage for an uneventful run through the most quintessentially French jazz tune of all—you guessed it, "Autumn Leaves."
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