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MP3 Claudia Hommel and Sean Harris - The Jazz Fauré Project: au bord de l'eau

A cabaret confection of French impressionism and American jazz

17 MP3 Songs
JAZZ: Jazz Vocals, EASY LISTENING: Cabaret

Yes- the complete lyrics and translations are included with every CD! Now, on to the story of how a 21st century jazz repertoire was created from 19th century French art songs.
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The French “impressionist” composer Gabriel Fauré, teacher to Maurice Ravel and colleague to Claude Debussy, wrote 100 songs from 1864 to 1922. Young classical singers today always learn a few and aficionados of art song recognize many of them as classics. They are “tuneful” and full of the most interesting harmonic progressions, harmonies in fact which later inspired a whole generation of jazz musicians of "cool jazz".

For many years Claudia Hommel had been “sneaking” Fauré’s songs like "Clair de lune" and "Les berceaux" in her cabaret shows. In her Romance Language album, she went a step further by introducing a bossa nova version of Fauré’s “Lydia”. Could more Fauré mélodies enjoy a similar treatment?

Pianist/composer Dennis Luxion was a perfect match for the challenge, as a professional pianist and composer with a background in both jazz and classical music and a good working knowledge of French. Dennis was Chet Baker’s principal pianist on European tour, played with Jean "Toots" Thielemans and was greatly influenced by the likes of Bill Evans (who recorded arrangements of Fauré tunes for instrumental jazz).

Dennis describes the process: “The idea: to recast eighteen Gabriel Fauré songs as ''jazz standards''. Singers Claudia Hommel and [an earlier collaborator] Daniel Neer had developed a basic sense of what they wanted to do with many of the songs. These ideas include stylistic transformations, the intertwining of Fauré with jazz standards, their roles in each of the songs, as well as specific harmony parts. The songs for the most part are set so as to be singable “straight”, while allowing room for interpretation and improvisation.

“I wanted to capture as much of Fauré’s original intentions as possible. Melodies and countermelodies are retained and key harmonies are often kept. But textures, secondary harmonies, orchestrations, and the sense of pacing have been reworked.

“By means of added introductions and endings, inserted measures, and interpolated instrumental solos, the songs are allowed to breath more and occupy an expanded time frame. There was no formula here, only the sense that our needs were different from the original ones and that a more relaxed sense of pacing was imperative.

"I appreciate the opportunity to present a part of my musical vision in which various musics and musicians come together to create a new and exciting harmony.” (The album features 12 of Dennis''s arrangements.)

When Dennis and Daniel went on to pursue other projects. Claudia turned to pianist/arranger Bobby Schiff and singer Sean Harris to continue growing the project. Building on the gold standard laid down by Dennis, Bobby added his own touch of mid-range lushness, romanticism and love of Fauré’s chamber music.

Claudia adds: “If mini-masterpieces by George Gershwin and Cole Porter can be enjoyed as ballads, swing tunes and Latin dances, why not the songs of Fauré, I wonder.”

Listen for yourself and tell us what YOU think!

The Jazz Fauré Project website is chock full of information about who''s who and how to buy your own copy of the Jazz Fauré Renoir painting, poster, t-shirt and tote-bag.


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