Love for Chet (English)

Jazz is a filiation music: artists find themselves spiritual fathers and mothers, influences draw complex and diverse genealogies. But sometimes chance helps a bit our destiny and we make important encounters, like a dubbing or a symbolic adoption. That’s what happened to Stephane Belmondo. That’s what he remembers today beautifully through his music. The story started in the 1980s, when Stephane Belmondo, young trumpeter came from the South of France where he was born to the capital. He used to live in Parisian clubs almost every day. One evening, he is playing at the Palace, a place that doesn’t exist anymore, Chet Baker comes to hear him, a jazzmen habit, and pretends to be very distrait. But at the end of the concert, Chet invites him to play the next day with him at the New Morning. At the same place, the next day, he introduces him to his public as the most promising trumpeter of the European continent, before letting him on the stage for a long time. From this encounter will follow long duo instrumental conversations during Chet’s visits in Paris, until his tragic death a few months after in Amsterdam, 1988. In between, something was born for these two artists, something beyond words that only music could express. Love, yes, like between a son and his father and it took the form of an album: Love For Chet. This album, Stephane Belmondo could have done it earlier. Capitalise on a legend, exploit this filiation. He preferred to make his career on his own, without having to mention his predecessors, counting on his own talent. He is definitely one of the most authentic jazzmen in the tradition of this music, but still free and able of an amazing lyricism, an endless energy, equalling all the famous trumpeters from the elite.

During his artistic career, he met a lot of musicians: among them, very prestigious ones, like the saxophonist Yusef Lateef or the singer Milton Nascimento who confirmed his talent. Dee Dee Bridgewater, Jacky Terrasson, Tom Harrell, Sylvain Luc, Eric Legnini, Gregory Porter, etc. He multiplied encounters and important collaborations, sometimes more into the soul or electro music, so he could eventually come better to jazz. To sing his love for Chet, Stephane Belmondo chose to approach Baker’s art at its best. A trio without piano nor drum kit, all in weightlessness, like his predecessor loved. Chet used to do this way during the last twenty years of life, favouring weightlessness of the guitar against the imposing piano, and the robust delicate double bass to stress the tempo and give a great vocal or instrumental freedom. We remember the evergreen albums he recorded for the label SteepleChase in this format, with Doug Raney and NHOP. For this tribute, Stéphane Belmondo chose musicians following the same tracks: the Dutch guitarist Jesse van Ruller is a revelation for many, but some people know he won in 1995 the prestigious Thelonious-Monk competition and he is a talented musiscian; Thomas Bramerie, long-time mate of Stephane (they learned music together), he is a double bassist knowing how to give a rhythm to music, and a soul too, like the greatest artists.
On the tracks Chet used to love, on these standards representing his talent and his spirit, but also on tracks he could have loved to play, Stephane Belmondo brings his own respiration.

Out of question for him to play “like Chet”, or to imitate his former mentor, not at all, he would consider it rather an offense than a tribute. The best thing Stephane could do was to play like he usually does, letting speak this lyricism of his, opening his heart and letting out his love for this friend. We can feel it in every note released from his brass instrument.

English Translation by @Alexandre Schuster