Les Rois Du Fox-Trot is a 10 piece French dance band. Once led by cornetist Jean-Pierre Morel, they are still a world class outfit worthy of your attention. Not surprisingly a few of the names have appeared at Whitley Bay. The one most familiar to me, cornetist Malo Mazurie, may not be a regular member, appearing on only five tracks of this album.
Other participants include Nicolas Montier (sax), Patrick Bacqueville (tb), Shona Taylor & Michel Bonnet (tp), Michel Bescont & Marc Bresdin (saxs), Jacques Schneck (pno), Gérard Gervois (tu), Francois Fournet (bjo), Deborah Tropez and Stan Leferriere (dr).
The album is a tribute to Duke Ellington, with all 15 tracks being his compositions. This is hot Duke, swinging Duke. If it is another Duke you are after you’ll find him elsewhere. Duke contains multitudes. That isn’t to say there isn’t a pleasant mix of emotional tempos, only that the playing is limited to primarily the hot dance period.
Titles include the obvious but enjoyable “Caravan”, “Jubilee Stomp”, and “The Mooche”, but also “Ducky Wucky” and “Wall Street Wail”. The last featuring scat singing, the only vocalization on the album.
Notable is the instrumentation, which follows closely to Dukes bands, even his later bands. Swing bands, straight ahead groups, or big bands covering Duke compositions today are unlikely to feature a banjo let alone a tuba. Having both here adds a real depth to the sound. The banjo is particularly well suited to bring out what is great in these arrangements. To me it makes them sound “right”, in a way most Duke tributes aren’t.
The recording quality is so crisp I didn’t realize this was a live album until the crowd cheered late in the first track. Though those cheers were enthusiastic, the small size of the crowd felt completely out of touch with the monstrous heat and virtuosity from the stage. The musicians were playing for a Savoy packed with sweaty dancers, but from the sound of it what they got was a room of twenty polite admirers. Such is jazz you might say.
The crowd noise dogged me throughout the album. Without it this would easily be my favorite of this months reviews. There’s even unintelligible (to an anglophone) table chatter during a quiet portion of “Creole Rhapsody”.
Had they reserved their appreciation for only the end of tunes I wouldn’t even mention it, but on some tracks more than others they get in the habit of showing their enthusiasm after anything approaching a solo. Whenever I started feeling the heat they’d soon come in with the sound of eight hands clapping. I don’t blame them, the music here is exciting. I just wish they’d gotten up to quietly dance their joy and let the music play.
Les Rois Du Fox-Trot is a real find and it is to your benefit to track them down, or even in some future universe where international travel and live shows are things we can do again, bring them to America. They have been around a long time, even recording several albums for Stomp Off. There are at least seven albums available to download on Amazon.
Hommage à Duke Ellington is packaged in a very modern and professional tri-fold CD case with attractive artwork. The track information includes a useful guide to the soloists on each. As the cornet lead and drummer vary track to track this is especially useful. There are short liner notes, all in French. From what I can gather they make mention of the banjo and tuba, noticing them for their true to life presence.