The Acclaimed French Clarinetist, Maxim Saury
“Swingin’ In L.A.”

By Floyd Levin

  For three quarters of a century, jazz, America’s prime cultural contribution to the world, has been it’s most bountiful export.

Since the Original Dixieland Jazz Band recorded the basic format in 1917, the exhilarating sounds have continuously found their way everseas. For many generations, the euphony of American jazz has blended smoothly with myriads of European influences. It has been lovingly burnished by segments of centuries-old traditions that have had a viable impact on every form of art since Uccello developed linear perspective in the 15th Century.

Although Maxim Saury was born in France, and has had little exposure away from his European roots, his inventiveness and swinging lyricism ranks him with the most creative jazz soloist performing on either side of the Atlantic. He has, for many years, been very well known in France as a prolific composer, arranger, and recording artist. Maxim is one of his country’s most popular jazz musicians, and he has successfully led his own band for the last 35 years.

This is the stellar French musician’s initial recording with U.S. jazzmen. Having filtered American jazz through his Gallic sensitivities, he now brings our music back to it’s source – and it’s much better for having made the journey!

Although these recordings have received lofty acclaim in France, this is the first time they have been issued in the U.S.

“SWINGIN’ IN L.A.” features Maxim Saury’s soaring clarinet with an outstanding group of musicians led by Bob Havens, without question, the foremost exponent of traditional jazz trombone. The excellent front line also features Dick Cary on trumpet and alto horn. He has long been acknowledged as one of the world’s most highly respected jazzmen.

Haven’s flawless command of the instrument is most evident during a tastefully executed muted chorus on “Moon Indigo”. His inventive four bar exchanges with Cary and Saury on “Together”, and his exercise in tailgate perfection on “Strike Up The Band” are further indications of his great talent.

Dick Cary’s expressively beautiful duet with Bob Havens on “Creole Love Call” simmers with the sensitive and passion of the Ellington classic. Together, the two jazz giants breathe fresh life into the time-worn standard, “When The Saints Go Marching In”.

The all-star rhythm section is sparked by Ray Leatherwood’s skillfully sculpted bass lines. Guitar and vocals are by the legendary Nappy Lamare, an original member of the Bob Crosby Bob Cats, in one of his last recorded appearances. Pianist Ray Sherman always swings; and this, by his own description, is his best recorded effort.

Nick Fatool’s impeccable duets with Maxim Saury on “Saint Louis Blues” and, with Ray Leatherwood, on a Franco-American version of Bob Haggart’s “Big Noise from Winnetka”, re-affirm his position as an unexcelled master of rhythm.

Since 1948, when, at 19, Maxim Saury made his first records with Claude Bolling’s band, he has recorded over 600 titles. To date, sixty top-selling albums bearing his name have been issued in France. The walls of his Paris apartment are adorned with gold records attesting to the importance of his recording artistry.

Maxim has frequently been honored as the leading jazz musician in his country. In 1956 he was winner of the Grand Prix du Disque, and won the coveted Jazz Hot awards in 1956, 1957, 1958, and 1959. Saury has also received the Gold Medal as the Best Instrumentalist of the year from the SOCIETE DES AUTEURS, COMPOSITEURS, EDITEURS DE MUSIQUE, the French equivalent of our A.S.C.A.P. This year he will be awarded the coveted French “Legion d’Honneur” in acknowledgment of his worldwide jazz activities.

He is, by no means, a stranger to U.S. fans who have heard him on several previous trips to this country. Saury’s first American appearance was in 1970 when I invited him and clarinetist Claude Luter to Los Angeles to represent France at the giant “Hello Louis!” concert that I produced at the Shrine Auditorium. This event launched the Louis Armstrong Statue Fund. In 1973, he co-starred with Barney Martyn and I presented at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles. Maxim also was a featured artist at the Newport Jazz festival in 1975. He has performed for many years at the Meridien Hotel in New Orleans during the annual Jazz Fest. His latest. And most triumphant U.S. appearance, was at the 1991 Los Angeles Classic Jazz Festival.

Maxim’s initial musical interests were motivated by his father who led the orchestra at the famous Casino de Paris accompanying such noted artists as Josephine Baker, Maurice Chevalier, and the legendary Mistinguet.

As an impressionable teenager during the German occupation of Paris during World War II, Maxim was listening to the many great French musicians who were active during that period. Long before he heard Armstrong or Ellington, he felt the influence of American jazz in the recordings by the Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt, and the French clarinetist, Alex Combelle and Hubert Rostaing.

After the war, the first American jazz heard in France was the 1938 Mezzaro-Ladnir Quartet recordings with Sidney Bechet. The purity of Bechet’s music was a profound inspiration to Saury who, along with every other French reedman, tried to emulate those inimitable New Orleans sounds. He soon became aware of the artistry of other Crescent City clarinetists – Jimmy Noone, Albert Nicholas, and especially Barney Bigard. The tender Bigard influence is quite evident in “Moon Indigo” with Ray Sherman’s delicate piano embellishing the lovely melody with an appropriately lacy splendor.

By 1952, Maxim Saury had shaped his own unique style and was appearing in Paris with such notable U.S. players as Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Tommy Dorsey, Bill Coleman, Roy Eldridge, and Sidney Bechet.

A dozen leading French films have featured scored written and performed by Saury. These include Otto Preminger’s highly acclaimed “Bonjour Tristesse”, plus “Cherchez la Femme”, “Music Hall Parade”, and many others.

Despite a full schedule in France with his own band and as a guest artist with other groups, he also finds time to fill engagements throughout Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, South America, and the South Pacific.

Having walked along the boulevards of Paris with Maxim, I Have observed the smiles of recognition on the faces of his French fans. He is frequently stopped with request for autographs or photos. It is apparent that he is a musician of stellar proportions on the banks of the Seine.

The recordings that Maxim Saury has made with this great group of jazzmen will certainly establish his status as a world class performer. It is easy to predict that his popularity in the U.S. is destined to soon equal his fame in France.

Ссылки на Maxim Saury:

  1. Les Grands Prix 1997 (french)
  2. Erhard Wehrmann


Maxim Saury:
  1. Swingin' in L.A.!, CD
  2. LIVE, Paris 1981 (From the Caveau de la Huchette), CD

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