THE ART OF MICHEL SARDABY - "florilège / Anthology"

The Art of Michel Sardaby

Michel Sardaby, piano
with :
Richard Davis (Bass), Billy Hart (Drums), Leopoldo FFleming (Percussions) track 1
Percy Heath
 (Bass), Connie Kay (Drumstracks & 5
Louis Smith (Trumpet, Flugelhorn), Ralph Moore (Tenor sax), Peter Washington (Bass), Tony Reedus (Drumstracks 3, 6 & 10
Pierre Dutour (Trumpet), Alain Hatot (Tenor sax), Henry Tischitz (Bass), Michel Denis (Drumstracks & 7
Michel Finet (Bass), Philippe Combelle (Drumstrack 8
Ray Drummond (Bass), Winard Harper (Drumstrack 9


Recorded in New York and Paris between 1965 and 2004

The tracks of this "Anthology" are a selection of the albums : GAIL, NIGHT CAP, STRAIGHT ON, FIVE CATS' BLUES, BLUE SUNSET & AT HOME Tribute to my Father.

Note about the album GAIL [track 1]
"Recording is checking up on oneself" says Michel Sardaby. "I listen back, l realize I'm one step ahead, and yet if I could do the record again, l know I would play differently. Recording is like facing a mirror and listening to your image urging you to go deeper into your self".
There is something slightly shakespearian in Michel's view of the creative artist's duty to both the public and himself at the same time. This shakespearian trend is also suggested by two pensive numbers in this record. "Ten Kisses Short as One", "One Long as Twenty", two titles that together make up a verse of the poem "Venus and Adonis" by The Bard. Another pensive and moody, yet bouncy number is "Song for My Children" a catchy 32-bar blues on a 3/4 rhythm. Gail the title piece is a lovely dreamy ballad and a masterful study in tone and colour control with a leisurely nostalgic solo by bassist Richard Davis.
For, as usual, Michel has surrounded himself by a formidable rhythm section. Drummer Billy Hart as an alumni from McCoy Tyner and Herbie Hancock groups. As to Richard Davis, he is generally looked at in jazz circles as the top contemporary bass player. This is his second recorded encounter with Michel Sardaby. - Liner notes by Jacques B. Hess, Académie Charles Cros - Académie du Jazz

Note about the album NIGHT CAP [tracks 2 & 5]
A side from playing and recording with American blues musicians like Sonny Boy Williamson and T-Bone Walker in the 1960s, the Caribbean-born jazz pianist Michel Sardaby recorded a few fine albums of his own. Night Cap, recorded in Paris in 1970, is one of his best known and features five originals and an eloquent rendition of Duke Ellington's "Satin Doll". Sardaby's trio, with Percy Heath on bass and Connie Kay on drums, brings a strong rhythmic sensibility and an appreciation for the blues to the pieces. There is a nocturnal quality to the album highlighted by the title track... This is a highly enjoyable album from an artist who worked with many American musicians throughout his career... - © Review by Jeff Schwachter All Media Network, LLC, San Francisco, California, United States.

Note about the album STRAIGHT ON [tracks 3, 6 & 10]
Michel Sardaby, from his playing, is often taken for a black American. But if people actually check out on whether he's French or American, he is tempted to reply : "l'm not a French musician or an American musician, I'm a jazz musician". And yet his music, even if not solely from America, certainly stems from the Americas. From those Americas that lie not too far from the Equator, where the sun and the heat dictate. Where the spontaneity that pervades the Sardaby musical universe conditions human nature. And where, in laughter or in tears, communion reigns.
For Michel Sardaby, music, like love, is first and foremost a thing of the senses. The emphasis is "on gesture, not intellect; on capturing vibration". And when he talks of images and colour, you suddenly realize he doesn't just hear his music, he sees it as well. His lengthy art-school studies have clearly left their mark. He talks of “sound as a raw material, to be fashioned like clay", and remembering his architectural training, of "the exploitation at space".
This 11th record album by Michel Sardaby, only his second in the quintet format, was taped live during a five-night engagement at the Alligators club in Paris, and admirably highlights all the warmth, delicacy and drive of his music. He composed and arranged the entire repertoire, and was personally responsible for selecting and assembling his cohorts from across the Atlantic. Not one hesitated to make the trip, each well aware at the melodic strength and harmonic wealth of the music they would be asked to play : the music of Michel Sardaby. And the pleasure is ours. - Don Waterhouse

Note about the album FIVE CATS’ BLUES [tracks 4 & 7]
"Not only is he one of my favourite pianists, but after hearing this album, which was recorded under favourable conditions, I am able better still to appreciate his pianistic qualities even more so, he has all the qualities a pianist should possess, such as tempo, taste, subtlety, etc... He makes me envious : he has another quality which is a rarity among the greatest pianists. He is a composer as well..." - Art Simmons

Note about the album BLUE SUNSET [track 8]
Blue Sunset is an apt title for this record because it succinctly combines the two main facets of Michel Sardaby's musical personality. There is sun in his smile and in his Martinique background, but you'll find in his music - and all the compositions on this album are by Michel - a rich and deep-rooted vein of blues. Blue Sunset, the title track, is a simple, haunting 16-bar theme enriched by the delightful B flat 9th chord in the sixth bar and the C 9th in the twelfth bar with its accompanying triplet figure from bass and piano. This is one of Michel’s most effective and evocative pieces.
Always "Room for One More", a slow funky blues in G is Michel’s way of saying thank-you to that Mecca for pianists, the "Living Room" in Paris - indicated by the "room" in the title. At the "Living Room" there's always welcomed. After stating the theme through two choruses. Michel sustains a dramatic "shake" through the whole of the third chorus, building up to a massive crescendo while Bibi Rovere’s bass walks solidly behind him. Then Michel takes off on a sequence of four choruses in which his percussive style is often reminiscent of Hampton Hawes. At the end of the fifth chorus, Philippe Combelle gets into a double-time mood and Michel responds by doubling the tempo of his deft-right-hand phrasing for two choruses. Michel reverts to the original tempo for the eighth chorus, finally leading in to a fade-out restatement of the theme...  
"Come from no where" sees Michel back in his own native Martinique paying musical homage to his people, and in particular to those people from the far corners of the Antilles islands who, he says‚ "seem to pop up from nowhere". This minor-keyed 32 bar sequence in 2/4 has a strong Samba-type beat, but Michel's chords and phrasing also betray the influence of the more northern jazz latitudes. - Mike Hennessy

Note about the album AT HOME Tribute to my Father [track 9]
The selection of the themes you'll find in this live "At Home" recording reveals my desire to showcase original compositions... Sardaby's / Tribute to my Father, in memory of everything he brought to me - love, kindness, honesty, generosity, sense of responsibility, of work, of effort. A thousand thanks to this great man. The title was found by Winard Harper, who convinced me to adopt it and who also asked me the score to interpret it with his own ensemble. - MS

© 2014 Co-edition Michel Sardaby Production / Harmonic Jazz Paris France

Michel Sardaby

Pianist - Composer - Music teacher

Pianist Michel Sardaby was born in 1935 in Fort-de-France (Martinique). His Caribbean roots and bebop spirit tell the story of highly respected musician. After graduating from the Ecole Boulle, the highest school for decorative arts in Paris (1956), he graduated from the bebop school of Paris whose masters were no less than Dexter Gordon, T-Bone Walker, Sonny Criss, Kenny Clarke, Ben Webster, J.J. Johnson, Chet Baker, Art Taylor, Jimmy Gourley, Guy Lafitte, René Thomas or Pierre Michelot. His personal discography features unique encounters with Monty Alexander (1984, Carribean Duet) or Ron Carter (1984, Voyage). Trio interplay is his favourite context with the help of carefully chosen rhythm sections such as Percy Heath and Connie Kay (1970, Night Cap), Richard Davis and Billy Cobham (1972, In New York), Richard Davis and Billy Hart (1974, Gail), Rufus Reid and Marvin Smitty Smith (1989, Going Places), Jay Leonardt and Tootie Heath (1990, Night Blossom), Buster Williams and Ben Riley (1996, Plays Classics and Ballads) or Reggie Johnson and John Betsch (1997, Intense Moments). He also favours the quintet, yielding a great recording with Ralph Moore (ts) et veteran trumpeter from Memphis Louis Smith (1992, Straight On). He has recently been working with young Turks from New York such as Robert Dickson (ts) and Derrick Garner (tp). 

His latest albums, Karen (2003, Reuben Rogers and Dion Parson), At Home (2004, Ray Drummond and Winard Harper) and Night in Paris (2005) reflect the mastery and craftsmanship of a poet. A melodic composer, a moving soloist, he relentlessly revisits Ellington, Monk and standard songs that the perfect vehicle for his sophisticated take on the blues. One of jazz’s best-kept secrets.
Today, The Michel Sardaby Trio features one the best rhythm section you can find in Paris with Darryl Hall or Wayne Dockery on the bass and Doug Sides or John Betsch on the drums.



Song for my children (composed by M. Sardaby)1
Night cap (composed by M. Sardaby)2
Dexterdays (composed by M. Sardaby)3
Five cats' blues (composed by M. Sardaby)4
I'm free again (composed by M. Sardaby)5
Turn on the heat (composed by M. Sardaby)6
My sweet Eleonore (composed by M. Sardaby)7
Brother Bill (composed by M. Sardaby)8
Sardaby's / Tribute to my Father (composed by M. Sardaby)9
Smoothie (composed by M. Sardaby)10


This "Art of Michel Sardaby" is born from his children’s desire. It invites us to revisit compositions drawn from his previous recordings. These impressions and memories allow us to reflect on a rich and varied musical career. An innovative and tireless creator, Michel Sardaby carries an obstinate musical touch, which is unique while avoiding the whims of fashion. Michel Sardaby invites you to share his universe. - Aude Désiré, Professor-documentalist

The silence before the notes, between the notes, find their place signed Michel Sardaby. - Patrice Blanc-Francard, producer

A consummate composer, his music give us a rare taste of poetic sounds and colours combined with finesse. - Denis-Constant Martin, Hebdomadaire Politis, Paris France

It’s presence, the extreme delicacy and the desire to treat his music, as a philosophy or science. Michel Sardaby is one of those musicians who speaks best in musical terms and makes it real. - Francis Marmande, Le Monde, Paris France

Ignoring successive fashions, chasing his unabated quest for perfection filled with poetry and magic [...] Michel Sardaby gives us his passion gorged with Blues and Jazz, throughout is body of work with a huge and refreshing intensity. - Gilles Coquempot, Member of the Jazz Academy, Paris France

about NIGHT CAP :
I had not read the last edition of Crescendo when I first listened to this CD. I was immediately knocked out by the piano playing of Michel Sardaby but disturbed by the fact that I know nothing about him. The sleeve notes are in Japanese, so this was of little help. There was no reference to him in any of my jazz encyclopaedias and specialist books. Fortunately I read Mike Hennessy's excellent article "Michel Sardaby : One of Jazz's Best-Kept Secrets" in Crescendo, before I wrote this review. I can only echo Mike's view that it is astonishing that a pianist of such obvious ability is virtually unknown in the jazz world.
This recording was made originally in Paris in l970. The trio is completed by Percy Heath and Connie Kay, towards the end of their long stint with the Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ). The two musicians obviously relished the opportunity to play with such a relaxed, swinging and sensitive pianist. Sardaby reminds me a little of Tommy Flanagan, one of my all time favourites. He is also a composer of considerable merit. 5 of the 6 tracks are his own compositions and they all could become jazz standards in their own right.
Crescendo readers must be indebted in Mike Hennessy and Monty Alexander for bringing this superb musician to our notice.
Sardaby has been playing professionally since l956 and has played with major jazz figures such as Chet Baker, Dexter Gordon, Don Byas and Clark Terry. Perhaps the fact that he has been resident in Paris for his entire career explains why he is unknown in America. He is certainly appreciated by his fellow musicians and should now be recognised by the enlightened readers of this journal. - © Peter Lund, Crescendo Magazine, Bruxelles Belgique.
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