Frenchy Thomas Dutronc
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- 1C'est si bon03:23
- 2La vie en rose03:46
- 3Plus je t'embrasse02:51
- 4Playground Love04:13
- 5Petite fleur04:11
- 6Un homme et une femme02:59
- 7La mer04:06
- 8Get Lucky04:04
- 9Minor Swing02:22
- 10All For You04:30
- 11If You Go Away03:15
- 12Autumn Leaves04:05
- 13My Way04:38
- 14La belle vie - The Good Life03:42
Info for Frenchy
La Vie en rose, C’est si bon, La Belle vie, Les Feuilles mortes, La mer: archetypally French songs that echoed through the streets of Paris, spreading from the capital’s courtyards to popular dances with their accordion music and jazz clubs. They then crossed the Atlantic before returning with English lyrics sung by artists such as Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin and Nina Simone. Here they are again, still possessed of the same sparkling swing but given a new and modern touch by Thomas Dutronc on Frenchy. His fourth album features 14 utterly French songs, all born in France, some of them at the turn of last century, others far more recently. Thomas breathes new life into them as he introduces different sounds, from lounge, cool and retro-cool to, occasionally, trashy and funky vibes. He sings them in French and/or English, as a duo or trio, with illustrious guest performers from the worlds of rock, punk, jazz and pop, including Iggy Pop, Diana Krall, Billy Gibbons (from ZZ Top), Jeff Goldblum and Haley Reinhart.
The godfathers of French chanson – Charles Trénet, Stéphane Grappelli and Sidney Bechett – rub shoulder with the chart-toppers of the 1960s – Sacha Distel, Jacques Brel, Claude François and Francis Lai – and electro French touch wizards (Air and Daft Punk). In his quest to revamp these classics with inventive arrangements and a dazzling dash of purity, Thomas called on the services of jazz and pop virtuosos: Frenchy was recorded and mixed by Jay Newland, who has worked with Norah Jones, Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder, at Studio de la Seine in Paris as well as in New York, Miami and Los Angeles. And performed by the crème de la crème.
“Where I’m coming from is the music I used to listen to as a child, my parents’ music, Alain Souchon, Véronique Sanson, Eddy Mitchell, Serge Gainsbourg,” explains Thomas Dutronc. “My grandmother used to tell me how Charles Trénet, the ‘crazy singer’, broke the mould. When I began playing guitar, I was mad about the blues, played by John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Jimi Hendrix and Chuck Berry. Then I discovered Django Reinhardt and all those gorgeous tracks with jazzmen having fun improvising, and I was bowled over. We had our own Mississippi.” The story of the French Mississippi is marked by Prévert and Kosma’s Les Feuilles mortes (dead leaves) fluttering to the strains of music written for a Roland Petit ballet before Yves Montand adopted them. A hymn to happiness, C’est si bon, composed by Henri Betti, Maurice Chevalier’s pianist, began life in front of a lingerie shop window on Avenue Jean Médecin in Nice. The song blossomed thanks to recordings by artists including Yves Montand, again, Jean Sablon and Dean Martin. And as for La vie en rose, that magnificent ode to lovers, it started out as a scribble on a café table by Edith Piaf, in love with the ever-present Montand. Since then, even Madonna has covered it.
Frenchy is the enchanted triumph of all those passionate nights, resplendent dawns and glorious mornings created by yesterday and today’s French lovers. The album opens with C’est si bon, performed as a trio in French and English, an explosion of swing and sensuality where Iggy Pop’s cavernous growl fuses with Diana Krall’s warmth and Thomas Dutronc’s gentleness. “The session lasted three hours in Miami. Diana gave me a complement and I was over the moon. I knew Iggy a little. He’s great, he left all tanned in his white, open-top Rolls, taking off his t-shirt. The greats are always professional and kind.” One by one, the album reveals further treasures, exquisite and surprising. In La Vie en rose, the smoky voice of ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons mingles with Thomas’ tones, taking the classic in a totally new direction with the two male voices offering a languid, whistling, wafting version. “Billy’s presence is something of a miracle. He’s a fan of BB King, who in turn is a fan of Django. Billy turned up in Los Angeles with that fabulous face and insane look of his, and it was all done in a single take. He played a few notes on his guitar while I whistled. Fabulous.”
Thomas Dutronc’s voice as it caresses these standards has never been so warm or flowing, blooming in a solo on La Mer and My Way, fleshing out and swinging on Plus je t’embrasse, Ben Ryan’s 1926 hit and JFK’s favourite song. It’s the only track on Frenchy composed by an American, although it was popularised with a French version by Les Soeurs Etienne. Thomas takes it on with an amused twinkle and American accent, giving it a rousing, brisk, optimistic feel ornamented with a piano-guitar instrumental. “We were swinging old style, like Nat King Cole.” Because Frenchy draws on the skills of a superb French quartet. Rocky Gresset and his soaring guitar, described by Thomas as having “a musicality, an ear, he really is flawless. Rocky is our secret weapon.” Eric Legnini who achieves musical feats on the Rhodes piano: “he’s a delightful person, a virtuoso musician who doesn’t insist on being an unbending jazz purist.” Thomas Bramerie’s double bass scatters shadows and light over the rivers of delicate notes: “I love his style, his groove.” Denis Benarrosh makes his drums sing: “his tempo is just perfect, the sounds he produces are magical.”
And there’s something magical in the way the album tackles the most daring of challenges: for example, adding a jazzy layer to Daft Punk’s Get Lucky to create an innovative rhythm. “I’m a big fan of Daft Punk, I like the electro journeys they take us on which are comparable to jazz, you’re pulled into a story, you listen to a first instrument, then a second arrives, and so on. In the studio, we started off jamming, two takes did it, we kept the second, half jazz, half funk, with disco strings at the end.” Air’s Playground love provided a new space to play around in, beginning with the sombre landscape created by Stéphane Belmondo’s blistering trumpet, cloaked in Denis Benarrosh’s organic beat. A muted setting that brings out the sensuality of South Korean jazz singer Youn Sun Nah. “Playground Love is a duo without actually being a duo, because we’re not really singing together. Youn Sun mastered some difficult keys with amazing skill.”
Another remarkable voice, Jeff Goldbum’s, can be heard on The Good Life (La Belle Vie), with English lyrics by Tony Bennett – who gave his autobiography the same title. Sacha Distel’s song originally illustrated L’Orgueil, one of the chapters in Les Sept pêchés capitaux, the 1962 Roger Vadim film, and was called Marina (named after the actress in the chapter, Marina Vlady). Goldblum, a worthy successor to the rat pack, lights it up with a cinematographic quality: “I ran into him on a Michel Drucker TV set and we got on really well. Jeff is now launching a career as a singer and pianist so he was totally on board. I’m hugely proud to have him on the album, he sings a bit like an actor, he really lives the song.” The duos often come across as real movie scenes. Ne me quitte pas features Haley Reinhart, who came to fame on American Idol, with an interpretation overflowing with strings and emotion. “An amazing feeling.” The stroll on the beach at Deauville in Un Homme et une femme is replayed with Stacey Kent – “her voice really moves me” – accompanied by accordion chords from the great Marc Berthoumieux.
In Thomas Dutronc’s private musical laboratory, three songs take pride of place. Sidney Bechett’s Petite fleur. “Bechett is American but he lived in France and that’s where he composed this sensual, Latin song steeped in nostalgia. It’s one of my favourites.” Django Reinhardt is at the heart of the other two, Nuages (All for You) and Minor Swing (co-written with Stéphane Grappelli). Thomas Dutronc’s whole soul is in these jazz gems. “It’s true, I started out as an instrumentalist and have gone back to the tunes I’ve been playing forever.” We also get to hear his friend Jérôme Ciosi’s ukulele and a bandoneon played by the master, Michel Portal.
Frenchy creates a world that swings, tinted by rosy hues, where life flows joyfully and peacefully, away from the currents, to the sounds of lounge and cool jazz. A procession of songs clad in mohair and silk encourage us to get up close and personal. It’s a venture that works, modern, delicate, erudite, profound and elegant, unshakeably stylish and international to boot, with the album released by Blue Note in France and Verve in the USA. The soundtrack to a marvellous film, timeless, contemporary and classy.
Iggy Pop, vocals
Diana Krall, vocals
Youn Sun Nah, vocals
Billy Gibbons, vocals
Jeff Goldblum, vocals
Stacey Kent, vocals
Haley Reinhart, vocals
Thomas Dutronc, guitar
Rocky Gresset, guitar
Éric Legnini, piano
Thomas Bramerie, double bass
Denis Benarrosh, drums
Produced by Vincent Carpentier
Son of French icons Jacques Dutronc and Françoise Hardy, Thomas Dutronc fell in love with Gypsy jazz music during his teenage years, starting with Django Reinhardt's works. Gifted with impressive learning capacities, he began studying Gypsy guitar at the age of 18 and has since collaborated with a wide range of artists, from the jazz community with the likes of Bireli Lagrene but also including his father, mother, and Henri Salvador from the pop world. In 2007 he released his own LP of songs penned with both wit and humor, displaying a gentle voice (very close to his father's) and his many talents as both a songwriter and guitarist, achieving a refreshing blend that quickly found an audience and earned strong record sales that same year. In 2009, Dutronc won the Victoires de la Musique for original song of the year with "Comme un Manouche Sans Guitare" before releasing his second album, Demain!, in 2011. (Olivier Duboc, AMG)
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