LABELS: Virgin Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Le Boeuf Sur Le Toit: Swinging Paris
PERFORMER: Alexandre Tharaud, Frank Braley (pianos), Madeleine Peyroux, Juliette, Bénabar (singer-songwriters), David Chevallier (banjo), Natalie Dessay (soprano), Jean Delescluse (tenor), Florent Jodelet (percussion), Guillaume Gallienne (actor)
CATALOGUE NO: 440 7372
This is fun. Alexandre Tharaud dances out of the concert hall and into the nightclub that became synonymous with Paris in the roaring 1920s: Le boeuf sur le toit. This labour of love is also a tribute to the jazz-infused, sophisticatedly mischievous music of Clement Doucet and Jean Wiener, duo partners and regular pianists at the nightclub. Doucet’s playful jazz versions of Chopin, Liszt and, most cheeky of all, Wagner’s Liebestod, are interspersed with versions of songs by Gershwin and Cole Porter among others, numbers made famous by the likes of Maurice Chevalier, and jazzy pieces by Ravel and Milhaud.
Tharaud’s varied programme captures the frenetic, vibrantly eclectic melting pot of 1920s Paris, aided by his assortment of collaborators and instruments. Tharaud even plays a sublimely nonchalant version of St Louis Blues on harpsichord. Of the singers, Madeleine Peyroux is deliciously teasing in Porter’s Let’s Do It, while Juliette and Bénabar are idiosyncratically French almost to the point of caricature. Natalie Dessay discards her usual operatic fireworks for a soulful, wordless impression of a trumpet in Wiener’s Blues chanté, just one of several moments where frivolity is suspended. The charms of this beautifully packaged disc are hard to resist.