Wednesday, June 13, 2018

H.U.M.: Humair, Urtreger, Michelot

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Another debt of gratitude is owed to Jordi Pujol at Fresh Sound Records for assembling and issuing more music from the Paris Jazz scene primarily of the 1950s and early 1960s

This time he has really outdone himself with the release of 16 tracks from what has to be considered one of the more exciting and interesting piano-bass-drums Jazz trio made up of René Urtreger on piano, Pierre Michelot on bass and Daniel Humair on drums.

H.U.M!: Humair, Urtreger, Michelot [Fresh Sound FSR-CD 957] contains music that was recorded in performance at the legendary Club St.-Germain-Des-Pres and in two French radio broadcasts.

Jordi offers the following background information about the music and the musicians in the following excerpts from his insert notes to the recording:

“The men behind the acronym H.U.M. (which uses one letter from each musician's name) were drummer Daniel Humair, pianist René Urtreger and bassist Pierre Michelot. Recorded live at Club Saint-Germain in September, 1960, these wonderful performances were offered at the time to five different record labels, all of whom turned them down. All agreed that the music was great, but they didn't think it would sell enough records. Fortunately for us, the Vega label chose to release an LP with their performances.

H.U.M. was a true trio. Its members melted together musically to form a separate entity Their obvious affinity in their tastes, ideas and styles gave the trio its own identity. Rene Urtreger blazes furiously with inspired conception, swinging deeply and shaping lucid and provocative jazz statements. Of course, he had the superb support of probably the best one-two rhythmic punch available in European jazz, at the time — Michelot, who also solos effectively, and Humair, who does as well in the more open passages. They are the anchor to these sides, and keep the fire alight until the last bar.

In addition to the original album, this CD includes two unreleased sessions from radio broadcasts. These recordings are a reminder of the wonderful soirees of late summer and early autumn that these three artists shared. At engagement after engagement, the trio that formed H, U and M, met to find perfect harmony. This record is a lasting memento of their joy.”                                          —Jordi Pujol

And here is an English translation of Raymond Mouly’s original French liner notes from the album -HUM! - [Vega V30SB37] which shed more light on the musicians , what’s on offer in the recording and when and how these recordings were made:

“During the Fall of 1960, one could hear at Club Saint-Germain-des-Pres a trio, full of swing and musical skill, delighting a small number of fans, gathered in close groups, as entrenched from the inattentive crowd of international squares. The three men conveyed with their music how much fun they were having, even though they had only been playing together for a short time; but the way their musical conceptions complement each other, the compatibility of their personalities, and their common love for a work well done, have given their trio a remarkable degree of quality. This collection gathers the best moments that jazz fans enjoyed at Club Saint-Germain in the company of Daniel Humair, René Urtreger and Pierre Michelot. These musicians have put together for this album eight performances from their usual repertoire, as well as a short Gillespian callback they chose to end their sets. We hear them exactly the way they sounded at the club, since the recording took place during one of their performances, live audience included.

DANIEL HUMAIR, the youngest of the three, was born on May 23, 1938 in Geneva. He learned music — on clarinet — at an early age, in a school with a poetic name, Ondine Genevoise. Maybe it was playing there that he acquired a taste for traditional jazz? In any case, this strong, confident young man from Switzerland had decided to become a professional musician at the age of fifteen. He gave up the clarinet, didn't linger much on the alphorn, and moved to the country, to accompany on drums an accordionist and a soprano saxophonist who played popular and folkloric dance tunes. So he had finally settled on drums for good; in 1956 and 1957, he put all his efforts into this dangerous instrument, where it's so easy to be overlooked, and tried his luck at the Zurich Jazz Festival. There, he took home the Best Young Musician award, the first spot in the Modern Drummer category, and one last award in the Traditional Style. These awards were enough to earn him a spot in a touring orchestra. So at twenty, he began traveling through Europe. During his travels he played with Don Byas, Jacques Pelzer, Nico Bunink, Guy Lafitte and others. One November evening in 1958, he was ready to conquer Paris, the only major European city he had left to visit. It was a Saturday. He went to the Club Saint-Germain to listen to Barney Wilen, but ended up jamming with his quintet. The next day, somebody came to tell him that they needed a drummer at the club Chat-qui-peche, that they wanted to offer him the spot, and that they had been looking for him all over the neighborhood to see if he was available. Daniel started
Sunday night in the company of Lucky Thompson and Michel Hausser. After that day, he left the capital only in rare occasions. After his engagement at Chat-qui-peche, came the Club Saint-Germain, where Daniel Humair was — just as he still is today — the drummer assigned to the Martial Solal trio. He only left the club once, for a month (to join Don Byas and Oscar Pettiford in a trio). Soon after that, he met René Urtreger and Pierre Michelot in the same club which had been the setting for his first night in Paris. Highly sought after for his excellent drive, brilliant technique, steady pace, good humor and professional dedication, for the past two years Daniel Humair has been in an astounding number of engagements, concerts and recording sessions.

RENE URTREGER, who received the Django Reinhardt Award soon after recording this album, is already a renowned jazzman. Many young musicians look up to him, and just like Martial Solal, but for different reasons, he's the best pianist in Europe. He was born in Paris on July 6, 1934. He started studying classical piano at the age of six, and even today he still plays on his small Klein the great works of Bach, Chopin or Debussy. His career started in 1953, shortly after winning an amateur contest. He appeared in many clubs in Paris with Buck Clayton, Don Byas, Jean Claude Fohrenbach, Bobby Jaspar, Stephane Grappelli, Al Levitt, Kenny Clarke, and accompanied on their European visits Miles Davis, Lester Young and J.J. Johnson.

A sensitive musician, he carries the melody with intense expressiveness and surprising range; he has the technical means of a virtuoso and the inspiration of a poet, now tender, now sharp, overflowing with happiness or burning feverishly, and his playing has the density of a passionate artist. René's most apparent quality, clear to see at any point in this album, is his swing. The musical skill and fire which fill his improvisations, put René Urtreger on par with any of the great American jazzmen.

PIERRE MICHELOT, once described by a French journalist as "our top bassist," was born in Saint-Denis on March 3, 1928. Piano was his first instrument, the organ his first love. From teacher Gaston Longereau he learned double bass, which he played professionally since 1946. Listing all the great artists he accompanied would mean making a list of all the jazz greats, but just to mention some of the most notable names, he played with Rex Stewart, Coleman Hawkins, Sidney Bechet, Zoot Sims, Dizzy Gillespie, Django Reinhardt, Lester Young, Miles Davis, Bud Powell, John Lewis, Stephane Grappelli, Martial Solal and Stan Getz. A great sound technician as well, Pierre Michelot has an ear that is the envy of anyone playing electroacoustic. That's why his work on double bass has become a methodical study of sound. Following that path, he has achieved remarkable results; the precision in his attach, his precise, rounded notes, the way they linger, are likely to earn him the admiration of all jazz professionals. He gives, in every performance, the best support a fellow musician could ask for.

The complete recordings of all H, U and M sets on the nights of 5, 6, 7 and 8 September 1960, was the work of Jean-Michel Puo-Dubois, the sound engineer specialized in jazz who recorded (among others) the first Double-Six album by Mimi Perrin. After a thorough listening of the recordings, the musicians themselves picked up the performances that better reflected the best musical moments they lived at the club. From that selection process comes this album, full of very different tones and shapes, but with a single uniting truth, the swing. The eight tracks that make up this album remain unedited. They have been reproduced the way they were recorded, and the original tapes were processed with only the bare minimum reverb, enough to compensate for the acoustic features of the club. The microphones used were four Neuman U-47s with an Ampex 350 tape recorder. The piano played by Rene Urtreger is a Steinway semi; Daniel Humair's drum set includes three Zildjian cymbals, a bass drum, two toms and a Gretsch snare drum; Pierre Michelot's double bass was made by luthier Joseph Hell.”
—Raymond Mouly

If you are a fan of straight-ahead Jazz, especially when played in a piano-bass-drums trio mode, this recording is a must for your collection.

And it you’ve not heard Jazz played by René Urtreger, Pierre Michelot and Daniel Humair, you are in for a treat as these guys can really bring it.

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