REVIEW: Laurent Cugny and the Gil Evans Paris Workshop feat. Andy Sheppard at Rich Mix (2016 EFG LJF)

Gil Evans Paris Workshop feat. Andy Sheppard at Rich Mix
Photo credit: Liam Izod


Laurent Cugny and the Gil Evans Paris Workshop featuring Andy Sheppard
(Rich Mix, 11 November 2016. Review by Patrick Hadfield)


Laurent Cugny and Andy Sheppard last played together nearly thirty years ago in Big Band Lumiere, a group of young musicians Cugny put together for the great composer and arranger Gil Evans for what turned out to be one of the last tours of Evans' life. Now Cugny has done it again with the Gil Evans Paris Workshop, many of whom can't have been born last time around. They brought their superb musicianship and exuberant passion to the Rich Mix for this year's London Jazz Festival.

That might sound as if they were trying to resurrect the past with their fire, but the music was as relevant to today as ever: timeless. The arrangements - Cugny's and Evans' - were rich and soulful; the band could be funky, bluesy - and they certainly swing. There was a lot of texture, too, and the orchestra made the most of Evans' dynamics. With a line up typical of Evans' eclecticism and featuring a French horn and tuba, there were touches that were almost Ellingtonian.

They played a few of Mingus' tunes, and a couple by Monk. Mingus' Goodbye Pork Pie Hat was tenor-player Sheppard's first feature, and it was a screaming, crying bluesy solo that Mingus might have named "hog calling". Later, the ranks of saxes, trumpets and trombones blasted out the riff to Mingus' Boogie Stop Shuffle, full of vibrant energy, whilst Sheppard took a solo for several choruses. Orange Was The Colour Of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk was laid back and languorous.

Monk's Blue Monk was played slowly as a ballad, whilst Rhythm-A-Ning was taken fast, the band making the most of the dynamics; it contained a fine trumpet solo by Malo Mazurié that was pure bebop.

Their long version of Spoonful featured the guitar of Marc-Antione Perrio: it was, as Cugny explained "fifteen minutes, two notes, and just one chord", but it contained fireworks, the band riffing those two notes till it felt like a damp swamp: Willie Dixon, distilled through Howlin' Wolf, Gil Evans and now Cugny. Then the band dropped out leaving just Joachim Govin on bass and Gautier Garrigue on drums backing Antonin-Tri Hoang's heartfelt, plaintive alto solo.

They perhaps saved the best for last. Leaving the stage, it seemed we might not get an encore, but they came back on and performed a storming King Porter Stomp. Sheppard and Hoang exchanged chorus after chorus, Sheppard reveling in the the younger saxophonist's exuberant skill. Then they went head-to-head, an object lesson in circular breathing, Sheppard singing through his sax, before bringing the gig to a thrilling climax.

Saxophones: Antonin-Tri Hoang, Martin Guerpin, Adrian Sanchez, Jean Phillipe Scali, Andy Sheppard
Trumpets: Anro de Casanove, Olivier Laisney, Malo Mazuié, Brice Moscardini
Trombones: Bastien Ballaz, Léo Pellet
French horn: Victor Michaud
Tuba: Fabien Debellefontaine
Guitar: Marc-Antoine Perrio
Bass: Joachim Govin
Drums: Gautier Garrigue
Piano /director: Laurent Cugny

Patrick Hadfield lives in Edinburgh, occasionally takes photographs, and sometimes blogs at On the Beat. Twitter: @patrickhadfield.

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