Saturday, December 8, 2012
Christian Escoudé and la France Profonde
Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
position as the world’s leading tourist destination is no accident, and not
just because of the scenery or the food. To many people it stands for a dream,
encompassing the revolutionary ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity and
epitomizing … the promotion of culture, literature and intellectual debate,
even the very notion of civilization.” France
In its 14-page Special Report on France [
2012 issue], The
Economist magazine goes on to explain:
From deep rurality to multi-ethnic suburbs, non-metropolitan
“THERE IS SO much more to
than France . Cities like Paris , Bordeaux , Lille Lyon, Nice and count for a lot, both economically and politically. The
country's variety is entrancing, one reason why so many foreigners come to Toulouse and so relatively few French people
holiday abroad. France boasts some of the world's most beautiful
Gothic cathedrals, such as France , Amiens , Notre-Dame de Paris and Chartres Reims, as well as some of its finest medieval
sculptures in Autun and Vezelay. There are Flemish towns like and Lille , Italianate ones such as Nice and Menton
and Teutonic cities like Arras and Strasbourg . And along with Metz Loire valley chateaux such as the fairytale Chambord and the river-crossing Chenonceaux there
are the gorgeous multicoloured roofs of Beaune and , spectacular hilltop villages along the Dijon and in the Cathar country of the Cote d'Azur - and some of Languedoc Europe's most modern and fashionable ski
The political significance of regional
is enhanced by the tradition of multiple
mandates, which has meant that many ministers and deputies in France have simultaneously been presidents or
mayors of local regions, departments or towns. The effect of this lingers …,
thanks to successive waves of decentralisation, regional and local government
accounts for a fifth of public spending. Paris
The weight of what is sometimes known as la
profonde is greater even
than this number suggests. France
is western Europe's biggest country (even
if you leave out the French overseas departments), and much of it has remained
well hidden until surprisingly recently…. France
Farming also matters far more in
than in many other countries. The
population became urbanised relatively late: even in 1920 over a third of
French people lived in rural areas, a far bigger share than in most of the rest
of France Europe. The cult of the paysan remains: many of today's Parisian sophisticates can trace
their ancestral roots to the countryside, and plenty still keep a property in
the country-something that came in useful during and just after the second
world war, when food was scarce. Even today the French fervently believe in the
magical qualities of their local vineyard or of the terroir and politically,
agriculture also packs a big punch.”
So what has all of this to do with Jazz?
It’s simple really.
Because of their affinity for things cultural, cosmopolitan and sophisticated, the French have always viewed and respected Jazz as an art form.
From the earliest years of the music, the French have embraced Jazz and treated the musicians who performed it with the highest regard and dignity.
Some have maintained that when Jazz fell-out-of-favor in its native
, primarily after 1960, that Jazz went to United States Europe - to live. Many expatriate Jazz musicians would
settled in because they were so warmly received
Not surprisingly, the home grown form of Jazz in
would be reflective of “the deep rurality”
and paysan qualities which dominate
in the French countryside. France
For while the Parisian sophisticates were welcoming American Jazz musicians, the paysan of “la France Profonde” were creating their own versions of Jazz using acoustic guitars, violins and accordions.
Indeed, the three have become so interwoven that it is almost impossible to say French Jazz without mentioning the guitar, violin and accordion in the same breath.
The French even used more guitars instead of bass and drums as a rhythm section in some of their earliest Jazz combos.
The sound of French Jazz with its links to the paysan instruments of guitar, violin and accordion were immortalized in the 1930’s recordings of The Hot Club of France, a group under the leadership of guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinist Stephane Grappelli.
Over the years, Django has become a Jazz legend and the tradition of gypsy-Jazz guitar stylings has been carried on by a number of both French and international guitarists.
One of these modern-day, regional France counterparts is guitarist Christian Escoudé, who, in 1989 put together an octet and recorded an album entitled Gipsy Waltz [Emarcy 838772-2].
While it is representative of The Hot Club of France style of paysan Jazz, the music on this album has been embellished in a number of ways.
Escoudé adds three other guitarists [Frederic Sylvestre, Paul Ferret and Jimmy Gourley] to form a vehicle for four-part-guitar harmony while also using a bass [Alby Cullaz] and an accordion [Marcel Azzola].
Somewhat uncharacteristically, drums [either Philippe Combelle or Billy Hart] are added to the mix as is a cello [Vincent Courtois] which adds another sound dimension when it is phrased in unison with the accordion on a number of tunes.
The result is as described by Alain Tercinet in the recordings insert notes: “Escoudé constantly plays on the association of different sounds: an accordion, by turns one, two or three guitars, a zest of guitar-synthesizer or cello, all joining together, playing off each other or separating at the whim of the scores that are rich but avoid ostentation.
Relaxed, and at the peak of inspiration, all the musicians speak out with infectious warmth and enthusiasm.
Besides paying a magnificent tribute to his musical heritage, Christian Escoudé also paints his autoportrait here; that of a guitarist to be numbered among the best – irrespective of nationality or class.”
If this aspect of French Jazz is unfamiliar to you, you can sample its joys in the following video tribute to Christian. The tune is Flambee Montalbanaise and it embodies the best of the paysan French Jazz tradition with its emphasis on the swinging gypsy waltz. Stick with it as it has a lot of very hip surprises.