Michel Bénébig (Nouméa)

Pete Fallico KCSM ‘The Bay Area’s Jazz Station’ doodlinlounge.com

Their travels have been described musically in ‘Noumea to New York’.  This one has a nice loping, ‘road-song-sound’ to it that gives Lewis some space to spread his wings.  ‘Une Terre’ is a ballad written by Michel’s wife and musical partner, Shem. This has a nice R & B grind that Houston owned from the outset.  His lush tone makes it perfect for dancing in the moonlight or any other intimate occasion, for that matter.  Michel’s next piece in this array of originals, ‘Running After You’, keeps a relentless groove going as Carl comps and chomps and Lewis’ edgy groove evolves into a shuffle that always keeps our feet tappin’.  A slower shuffle fills the bill for ‘AJC Blues’.  Houston takes the first solo after a memorable head that is followed by one of Michel’s best efforts on the date.  Carl’s arsenal is deep and wide but his country pickin’ on this track says it all for me.  Michel further demonstrates his Hammond skills by switching to the ‘squabble’ registration for ‘Blue Butterfly’.  By pulling out the first and last four drawbars on the Hammond organ a player can get, what Jimmy Smith called, ‘the Erroll Garner sound’.  Michel uses it almost exclusively here; conversing with himself by making slight sonic shifts. ‘Lucia’ is a boogaloo-sort-of-groove which went immediately into Carl’s wheel-house.  Michel glides his fingers across the manuals, keeping the rhythm steady and our heads nodding to the groove.  Finally, ‘Something Happened’ depicts the journey of this entire session for me.  It climbs as if ascending to another place; another time.  I suppose I heard the essence of the session all in this one track :  Noumea to New York is where I’d been is a humble man with a heart of gold.  He leaves his country of New Caledonia where he is recognized on the streets and acknowledged as a ‘star’ in nightclubs to acquiesce this status in America so that he might absorb more of the music he loves and yearns for.  He has been a diplomat for his country on many levels and an authentic ambassador of Jazz Organ throughout the world.  This session, to me, exemplifies not only his unwavering love for Jazz Organ but his reaching to the upper echelon of jazz organists worldwide. Michel's music available on www.radioskymusic.com