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A CurtainUp Review
Le Jazz Hot: How The French Saved Jazz
On stage, Peter and Will Anderson carry themselves with a calm and self-assurance that's well earned. The Julliard trained multi-instrumentalists and identical twins have been playing together since their teens, and, by now, they're effortlessly engaging performers.
With Le Jazz Hot: How The French Saved Jazz, their third show at 59E59, they've put together a highly polished production, part history lesson and part tribute to the French and American artists who kept the art form alive in the mid twentieth century. The brilliance of Le Jazz Hot is a testament to why that effort was so important.
For the performance, 59E59's Theater C is outfitted with candlelit tables surrounding the band's small playing area. The walls are decorated with musical instruments and posters depicting jazz legends and French scenes. It's a cozy environment, one perfectly suited for the intimate act to come, a multimedia performance in which videos highlighting various jazz personalities, from Sidney Bechet to Duke Ellington to Josephine Baker alternate with live performances of songs from their repertoires.
The video interludes, narrated by the Andersons, are informative if not always captivating. The anecdotes they tell are sometimes colorful (the story of Bechet's shoot-out over a chord progression comes to mind), and mixed with some humor, but no video could really compete with the what's going on onstage. The videos work best, therefore, on the few occasions when they're part of the performance. A jazzed up version of Debussy's "Clair de Lune" perfectly paired with Albert Lamorisse's classic short film, "The Red Balloon," fulfills the promise of the marriage between music and film. On most other occasions, though, audiences will likely be anxious to get back to the music.
And who could blame them? Playing a mixture of clarinet, saxophone, and flute, depending on the song, the Andersons achieve harmony that's so close it seems almost genetically determined. The rest of the quintet, including, on this night, Randy Napoleon on guitar, Neal Miner on bass, and Luc Decker on drums, is just as tight. If you have any doubt about their virtuosity, their super fast rendition of "Django Reinhardt's "Rhythm Futur" puts them to rest. And on the gorgeously paired down duet of "La Vie en Rose," the Andersons show they play the slow stuff just as beautifully.
Music aside, the performance is made particularly memorable and personal by the twins, who have emerged from their training not just dynamite musicians, but genuinely gracious and endearing hosts. Though, as brothers do, they joke and rib one another on stage, the love here is clear, both for each other and for the music of this era. Indeed, in the Andersons, the form immortalized by the likes of Armstrong, Davis and Ellington has found two capable torchbearers. Their appreciation for that tradition and their considerable talent make them well poised to allow modern audiences to see the light.
Here's a link to Curtainup's review of The Anderson Twins Play the Fabulous Dorseys