Henri Renaud was a Parisian jazz pianist in the 1940s and '50s who never lost his French touch. Outgoing, charming and a delightful composer, he was a natural point person for American musicians on tour in Paris searching for sidemen, venues and recording opportunities. In addition to recording in the early 1950s in Paris with Bobby Jaspar, the Belgian saxophonist and flutist, Renaud recorded with Sandy Mosse, Nat Peck, Lee Konitz, Gigi Gryce, Tony Ortega, Art Farmer, Clifford Brown and many others American jazz greats. In early 1954, Renaud was in New York briefly to record with American jazz musicians for the French Swing label, a subsidiary of France's Vogue Records. For the balance of the 1950s, Renaud recorded largely in the trio format and led his own small orchestras, writing a wide range of beautifully composed songs. In 1964, he began a long second career as head of CBS France. Renaud died in 2002.
In 1981, pianist Jimmy Rowles paid tribute to Renaud in the most exquisite way—accompanied only by bassist Michael Moore. The result was Profile: The Music of Henri Renaud (French Columbia), a richly melodic and romantic album of nine Renaud songs as interpreted by the regal Rowles in New York. Rowles had become friendly with Renaud a year earlier when he was in Paris recording Jimmy Rowles in Paris and other albums for French CBS. The albums and Profile were part of Renaud's CBS Jazz Piano Collection" series.
The tracks on Profile are Princess, Profile, Waltz 70, Telescopy, Burt's Pad, Christopher's Waltz and Ballad in C, Wallington Special and Marcel the Furrier. Perhaps the best know of these lovely songs is Burt's Pad, which was recorded by Oscar Pettiford in 1954 with Kai Winding (tb), Al Cohn (ts), Henri Renaud (p), Tal Farlow (g), Pettiford (b,cello) and Max Roach (d).
Profile is one of Rowles's finest recordings. What we find in Rowles's playing is Renaud's glorious sense of Parisian bop, which tended to be a bit prancier and lusher than the American attack—perhaps a result of Renaud's Parisian sensibility and his exposure to Gryce and Quincy Jones. What we also hear is Rowles's respect and admiration for Renaud as a composer and pianist with taste and a tender touch.
Now the bad news. Profile is long out of print and now goes for ungodly sums. For example, Amazon has the CD listed for more than $1,000. This album needs to be released at least as a download. Perhaps Columbia in the States or Fresh Sound will re-issue it with Jimmy Rowles in Paris and the other albums Renaud produced. To hear one of jazz's finest pianists interpret one of France's best jazz composers will bring tears to your eyes.
Here's Henri Renaud with Jimmy Gourley (g), Jean-Marie Ingrand (b) and Daniel Humair (d) playing Clarisse Blues...
And here's Burt's Pad recorded by the Oscar Pettiford Sextet in 1954, including Henri Renaud...