Blue Jack Jazz Records
label website

The fun of small record labels is that they do not suffer a gigantic overhead to attend to. The independents can go after their own ideas and tastes. One of those independent minds is the Dutch, Henk Toorenvliet and the driving force behind a foundation that strives to preserve historic Jazz recordings. Too many times, irreplaceable recordings fall prey to storage needs or over-zealous cleanup activities. Henk's foundation attempts to locate such recordings, clean -- and when necessary repair -- them and then release them as good-as-new recordings on CD or even SACD. Besides this historic conservancy work, Henk also gives new musical talent a chance to play and learn from more established musicians. The results are published on the foundation's record label, Blue Jack Jazz.

As a man as dedicated to his work, Henk is always listening to music and comes across many street musicians on his travels through Europe. If he likes what he hears, he asks the buskers to record with him. This has resulted in a special Blue Jack Jazz series called Jazz from the streets of Europe.

Henk first heard the French band Zou Mai playing a square in The Hague in the wake of 2000's North Sea Jazz Festival. The NSJF is the largest indoor jazz festival in the world. It thus draws enormous crowds as well as musicians from all over the world. Next year, the NSJF will be held in The Hague for the last time because the venue will disappear. Not to worry, though - Rotterdam will host the festival beginning 2006.

Meanwhile, the result of Henk's meeting with Zou Mai is playing in Rotterdam now - in our system to be precise. The music of Jacques Lyprendi, Thomas Kretschmar, Philippe Tchumak, Benoit Torres and Vincent Glaziou is a happy fusion of Gypsy Jazz, Blues, Celtic folk and French musette. Of course the music of Django Reinhardt has a heavy influence on Zou Mai, not in the least because all of these musicians are members of the Sinti community. Sinti is the umbrella designation for Gypsies living in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and France though they're more often called Manouche when living in France. The name Zou Mai stems from the local dialect of Marseille and means "again'. "go on" or "another", all encouragements from the audience not unlike the Spanish "ole" during Flamenco juergas.

Both Henk Toorenvliet and Zou Mai met halfway from their homesteads in the south of France to record "J'attendrai". The CD is filled with classics, most of them recorded by Django once. In the hands of Zou Mai, these songs get just that little special touch to become different, be it the way Jacques Lyprendi plays his accordion musette-style or the waltzy mien of violinist Thomas Kretschmar. "Some of these days" -- Sophie Tucker's theme song --, "J'attendrai", "Bilet Doux" and "Valse Chromatique" are just a few of the standards that are combined with the traditional "Mademoiselle de Bucarest".

It's too bad the CD only lasts 26 minutes which equals about the length of a street concert. Zou Mai plays with such enthusiasm and skill that another 20 minutes would be really welcome. The recording is quite loud though clipping occurs only a few times as CoolEdit shows. This underscores how the sound quality for this CD is okay. "Zou Mai !" then for another CD from this gifted ensemble...