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Sacha's Guitar

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Album Review

Sacha Distel is probably more famous internationally as a singer, and even an actor, than he is as a jazz guitarist. It was as a guitarist, however, that he made his first mark on the entertainment world. This all-instrumental compilation is a document of those beginnings, gathering 14 tracks that he recorded between late 1955 and late 1956 in a variety of settings. Just five of them were credited to Distel; the remaining nine cuts include one with the Lionel Hampton Paris All-Stars, a couple with the Bobby Jaspar All Stars, and five as co-leader of the John Lewis-Sacha Distel Quintette. The mere fact that by his early twenties he was already playing with the likes of Hampton and Lewis is an indication of how highly regarded his talents on guitar were regarded by the jazz world. While there's no indication that the world lost a future Wes Montgomery after Distel switched his focus to pop vocals, these tracks alone are enough to establish his credibility as an instrumentalist in the straight jazz scene. For the most part, they're respectable straight-ahead pieces in the cool-bop-influenced style, Distel taking smooth leads that show a debt to the work of Charlie Christian. Be aware that on some numbers, the focus isn't wholly on Distel, though this isn't such a bad thing if you're a general fan of jazz from the period, especially on the Lewis cuts, where Lewis' piano and contributions by esteemed sidemen such as drummers Kenny Clarke and Connie Kay are also prominent. Also be aware that there are no original Distel compositions on this compilation, which includes material by Lewis, Thelonious Monk, Billy Byers (who plays trombone on the tracks billed to Distel alone), Milt Jackson, and Michel Legrand, as well as standards like "All the Things You Are" (heard in two versions) and "Willow Weep for Me."


Born: 29 January 1933 in Paris, France

Genre: French Pop

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

Sacha Distel was one of the top jazz guitarists and chanson singers in France. A prolific recording artist, Distel recorded more than 200 tunes including his biggest hit, "Scoubidou," in 1958. In addition to appearing in several French films, he became one of France's most popular television actors. Distel inherited his love of music from his mother, who played piano, and an uncle, Ray Ventura, who was a renowned bandleader and composer. Trained by Henry Salvador, guitarist/singer for Ventura's orchestra,...
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