by Ian Mann
November 02, 2022
Guest contributor Colin May visits Nice and enjoys the contemporary mainstream jazz of guitarist Pierre Bertrand's quartet in the intimate setting of Cave Romagnan, also known as 'Manu's'.
PIERRE BERTRAND QUARTET
Cave Romagnan, Nice, France
29 October 2022
Pierre Bertrand guitar, Benjamin Boutant tenor sax, Sofian El Mabrouk bass guitar, Felix Joveniaux drums
Saturday night is jazz night at Cave Romagnan or ‘Manu’s’ as this local institution is known to the faithful. The performances from some of the best jazz groups from the Côte d’Azur are inescapably intimate for the band and audience space is only about 17 square metres.
It can be difficult to get a seat inside, and tonight a good number of the crowd are listening from pavement tables outside. In the interval a hat, a battered brown trilby, is passed round to collect for the musicians.
Tonight it’s for a quartet lead by guitarist Pierre Bertrand. He and his band play mainly contemporary mainstream jazz. They’ve been together for some time and it shows as the group are both very tight and very relaxed and confident in each other’s playing.
Bertrand’s guitar style is to intelligently probe and explore phrases, often finding surprising angles. Its quite an intense approach in which sometimes continuity is not to the fore but it makes for a good contrast with Benjamin Boutant’s flowing tenor saxophone playing which is much more towards the lyrical end of the spectrum. Boutant combines rhythm and melody superbly and very appealingly. Sofian El Mabrouk on bass guitar gets plenty of opportunities to display his finger-picking dexterity. Though drummer Felix Joveniaux doesn’t solo, perhaps because in this small space a drum solo could be ear shattering, the range and sensitivity in how he supports whichever of his three colleagues is soloing is impressive.
There’s plenty of variety in their set. They salute the greats with a version of “Miles Ahead” and an homage to McCoy Tyner . Early on there’s an angular ballad that’s a slow burner, while later there’s a further ballad, a tribute to Israeli pianist Shai Maestro, that’s more chilled and gentile. The mainstream is given a twist now and then, there’s a tune driven by an attractive Middle Eastern pulse, and the group have a funky streak that’s most prominent with a tune honouring James Brown.
They’re a gem of a quartet who do what they do rather well. They are visibly enjoying themselves which adds to the fun, as does the enthusiastic response of the audience sitting inside and outside. It all adds up to a thoroughly enjoyable night at ‘Manu’s’. If in Nice on a Saturday night…
Cave Romagnan has a Facebook groups page that’s useful for what’s on. It can be viewed by anybody and found via googling Cave Romagnan.
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