Tag Archives: Michel Bastide
One of the most popular bands to appear regularly at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival during its heyday of the 1980s returns to the Scottish capital next month – for one night only. The Hot Antic Jazz Band delighted EJF audiences on the celebrated pub trail for the best part of two decades, and few ensembles are as fondly remembered or as emblematic of the old festival, beer-fuelled, spirit of jazz joie-de-vivre. This is, sans doubt, the band that sealed my fate as a jazz fan..
The Hot Antic Jazz Band (so-called as a play on words – Hot Antic, pronounced in French, sounds the same as “authentic” in French) may be made up of part-time musicians, but it has appeared at some of the world’s best festivals and venues, including the Carnegie Hall in New York. The standard of its musicianship and the players’ enthusiasm are such that the band has attracted the attention of various jazz greats, including Jabbo Smith.
Indeed, it was a love of the music of the long-lost trumpet legend Jabbo Smith, regarded in his prime as the only serious competition to Louis Armstrong, which first brought the original Antics together in 1979. Trumpeter Michel Bastide explains: “We met during a jam session in a club in Montpellier and during the break fell to talking about Jabbo’s music. It was there and then that we decided to do something about it – and the Hot Antic was born.”
In 1982, when the band was still in its infancy and concentrating on numbers written and originally recorded by Smith during his all-too-brief heyday, the opportunity to work with their hero on a short tour presented itself. A strong friendship was formed between the ageing trumpeter and the French musicians and, when he died in 1991, it was to Michel Bastide that Smith left his horn.
Unfortunately, the Antics never brought Jabbo Smith to Edinburgh but they count as highlights of their 35 years some of their early visits to the capital. Bastide says: “We fell in love with the Edinburgh Jazz Festival because we discovered a city devoted to jazz for a full week, with jazz everywhere – in the pubs, in the concert halls, in the hotels, everywhere. And there were opportunities to meet players like Teddy Wilson, Buddy Tate and Doc Cheatham. Plus, we liked the smell of the beer …. ”
A spirit of Marx Bros-esque mischief and a sense of camaraderie are key aspects of the Hot Antic Jazz Band’s popularity within the jazz world – and outwith it: this band is required listening for anyone who thinks that jazz is po-faced and serious. At 14, I was seduced by its Gallic charm (never again able to sing Puttin’ on the Ritz without a ‘Allo ‘Allo accent), sense of style (I’ve yet to see a classic jazz band as effortlessly stylish as the Antics in their post-dungarees era) and playfulness.
Indeed, the fun atmosphere onstage also undoubtedly appeals to some of the famous names who have sat in with the French musicians. Bastide recalls the thrill of being joined onstage by trumpeter Doc Cheatham, the gentle jazz giant who did the festival circuit throughout his seventies and eighties. “We were playing at a jam session at the Breda Jazz Festival, and Doc asked if he could sit in with us. It was very, very cute. He came to the stage like a little boy and said: ‘May I play with you? May I sit in with you?’ What more could I say except: ‘Yes, please.'” More recently, in the early 2000s, Wynton Marsalis became almost an honorary Antic thanks to various jam sessions at the Marciac Jazz Festival.
So what is the secret of the Antics’ longevity? Bastide has no doubts on that score. “The Hot Antic is still active because we are friends, we play just for fun, just for the pleasure of playing the music we like – the music of the 1920s – and the pleasure of playing together.” It sounds as if Jabbo Smith got it right when he described them as “the happiest band in all Europe”.
* The Hot Antic Jazz Band plays Edinburgh’s Jazz ‘n’ Jive Club, Heriot’s Rugby Club, on Friday, May 9 at 8pm. Tickets cost £8 for members; £10 for non-members and can be booked by calling Jim Callander on 01259 211049 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org . For more information, visit www.edinburghjazz.com
So, to recap, the 1986 Edinburgh Jazz Festival was my first … I was 14, I accompanied my Dad, whose annual jazz festival routine involved taking the week off work and taking up smoking (it seemed to make the Pub Trail pints taste better). The main event and reason for my being invited was to hear piano wizard Dick Hyman play at the Royal Overseas League that night. But, being a youngster, I had to go wherever my father went – and, of course, he had a full day of jazz planned.
Many of the musicians I heard on my first day were already elder statesmen of jazz when I was born. I speak, of course, of the musicians I was privileged to hear playing in the Speigeltent (a venue that I’ll be virtually inhabiting over the next week at this year’s event): Harry “Sweets” Edison (trumpet), Buddy Tate (tenor sax), Al Grey (trombone), Ray Bryant (piano), Milt Hinton (bass) and Gus Johnson (drums). In all honesty, I don’t remember much about what they played (and these were the days before I took notes) but I’m pretty sure that – as with Doc Cheatham eight years later – there was a strong sense of
being in the presence of guys who were part of the fabric of the music’s history.
From the Speigeltent, we undoubtedly followed part of the old McEwan’s Pub Trail, to the now-legendary Festival Club for a 3pm set by the band which had much to do with my conversion to fully-fledged jazz fan: The Hot Antic Jazz Band. This Gallic group should be compulsory listening for anyone who thinks jazz is po-faced or inaccessible. Humour, style, joie-de-vivre and terrific musicianship are the hallmarks of an Antics concert. They won me over – and they’re still going strong. My seven-year-old sons love them too…
One of my abiding memories of my early jazz festival visits is of hot-footing it from venue to venue (often across town) in order to catch ten minutes of a set and cram as much into the day as possible. With our gold badges we could get into any gig that wasn’t already full to capacity and this meant that if you only
wanted to hear the first band in a three-set evening in one venue, you could take a chance on getting into the second or third set in a different venue – usually (at Dad’s suggestion) the one furthest from Waverley Station where we’d catch the last train home. These gambles usually paid off (and were worth taking if you realised that you had perhaps chosen the wrong gig to start your night in), though there was a memorable occasion when Dad and I pitched up at the “Tartan Club” in Fountainbridge only to be told that we’d have to listen to Kenny Davern, Scott Hamilton and the rest of the all-star group onstage from outside the front door as the club was already full. I don’t know if I’ve dreamt it, but I am sure I heard Hamilton storming through a superb version of Back In Your Own Back Yard (the only time I’ve ever heard it live) on that occasion – playing it fast and furiously as if to ensure that those of us straining to hear the music from outside wouldn’t miss out.
That first year, we didn’t do any of that kind of juggling: there was no way we were going to risk not getting in to see Dick Hyman at the Royal Overseas League, a venue which fills to uncomfortable capacity very quickly. Indeed, there was no way we were going to risk not getting front row seats – and prime position for requesting Maple Leaf Rag, the Joplin tune which had first got me hooked on Hyman’s playing just a few months earlier.
And in case there is any doubt about my having been there that day, here’s the photographic evidence: you can glimpse my reflection in the mirror on the pillar of the Speigeltent ..
The offspring and I spent Friday lunchtime at the Keswick Jazz Festival, in the toujours charmant company of the Hot Antic Jazz Band. These purveyors of classic 1920s jazz were the first jazz band I ever heard – at my first jazz festival, back in 1986. (I was 14.) I found this photo recently, of my second encounter with them, in 1987 – possibly the first time I ever propped up a piano in an Edinburgh pub, but most certainly not the last…
For the second time, I managed to bring my seven-year-old twin sons to hear them – the last time was at the 2009 Keswick Jazz Festival. They loved the music (much of it was recorded on their Kiddizoom cameras), reckoned that pianist Martin Seck resembled Star Wars’ Han Solo (“though he has different hair”) and went straight to the piano when they got home. Well, they have a reputation to live up to: trumpeter Michel Bastide dedicated a number to them and said that they played like Willie “the Lion” Smith, a resemblance that so far has only been visual (wth props)..
The line-up of the Hot Antic has changed since I first got to know them, but Michel Bastide (trumpet) and Jean-Pierre Dubois (banjo & clarinet) – both pictured above – plus Christian Lefevre (tuba) are still at the band’s heart. Bernard Antherieu (clarinet & banjo) joined back in the early 1990s, followed by the afore-mentioned Martin Seck. Michel Bescont (saxophone & clarinet) is a brand new addition. In Keswick on Friday,they had Matthias Seuffert (clarinet & sax) as a special guest.
Here are some more pictures from a concert which included many tunes I’ve never heard them play before – Somebody Stole My Gal, You, Horse Feathers (no connection to the Marx Brothers film), Bright Boy Blues and Hot Feet among them – and as many familiar Antic numbers, including the glorious Morocco Blues, Okay Baby and The Charleston Is the Best Dance After All.
Apologies for the quality of the images – my new Panasonic Lumix is supposed to be great for photographing concerts but, frankly, it’s not. For motion picture recording, however, it’s superb. Looks like I’ll have to take two cameras to concerts I want to photograph and/or film.
As ever, the band’s arrangements were stylish and fun and showed off the three clarinets or, in the case of the next picture, the vocal trio of Michel, Martin and Bernard. This might have been taken during their delightful rendition of another new addition to their repertoire – Three Little Words.
We didn’t have to burst a gut to catch the bus which connects with the train back to Glasgow this year, so we actually took in a little bit of Keswick. The Theatre By the Lake, where the Antics were playing, is the main venue in the jazz festival and it was lovely to step out from the over-heated venue and wander down to the lake. Every jazz festival should have one …