Friday, July 4, 2008

Viva Salvador!

Henri Salvador came to my attention in the Quincy Jones autobiography, he was mentioned as one of the artists he wrote arrangements for on the French label Barclay during the time he spent in Europe 1959-1960. In the book there was a photo of Salvador he appeared to be a light-skinned Nubian, he had the features but the photo was a black and white. I was intrigued by the photo and what those collaborations may have produced since the music that Q creates stirs the soul no matter the language or genre.

In the very same year I had the opportunity to see a documentary called In The Pocket on PBS. In this excellent representation of the lives of Mr. Jones, various musicians tell the story of an arrangement by Neal Hefti. Neal presented his arrangement to The great Count Basie it was uptempo and very much in the contemporary style of the day a "nice chart" as Clarke Terry the trumpet legend and all around beautiful cat remembered (who was also at the rehearsal as he was a part of the heart pumpin' swingin' machine Count Basie commanded).

Mr. Terry recalled The Count listened intently to the band run through it. The Groovemaker said "it was nice". Quincy Jones picks up the story. Count Basie said "let's try it here"and he began to play the arrangement on the piano in a very slow groove and the chart took on a whole new life! Q spoke with amazement about how dramatically the tune opened up because of the change in tempo. Quincy described the new colors within the harmonic structure that were not heard when the tune was played at the original faster pace. Q said "that was when I realized everything is about timing"!

Lil' Darlin' ended up being another hit for The Count! In the same documentary Q was rehearsing a big band at Montreaux and Henri Salvador was the featured vocalist on the song Lil' Darlin' The first thing I noticed about Henri was his wide warm smile and that legendary booming laughter. He was beauty! His soul. His gift. His elegance.I recently saw a video online with Henri and the two supa bad French sistas Les Nubians. I don't posses the words to describe the beauty of this slice of love. I have the video below the Henri Salvador story. Enjoy!


Salvador was born in Cayenne, French Guiana. His father, Clovis, and his mother, Antonine Paterne, daughter of a native Indian from the Caribbean, were both from Guadeloupe, FranceHe had a brother, André, and a sister, Alice. He played many years in the Ray Ventura (dead on 29 March 1979) et Ses Collégiens where he used to sing, dance and even play comedy on stage, and made some appearances in great movies such as "Nous irons à Monte-Carlo (1950) " or "Nous irons à Paris" (Jean Boyer's film of 1949 with the Peters Sisters) or "Mademoiselle s'amuse" (1948). He is known to have recorded the first French rock and roll songs in1956 written by Boris Vian and Michel Legrand Rock'n Roll Mops, Rock hoquet, Va t'faire cuire un oeuf, man and Dis-moi qu'tu m'aimes rock under the artist name of Henry Cording, (a play on words with Recording).

Despite this historical aspect, he never ceased to claim that he disliked Rock and Roll and even refused to talk about this subject later on. In the 1960s, Salvador was the host of several popular television variety shows on French TV. In 1964 he scored a hit with Zorro est arrivé, which was inspired by The Coasters' U.S. hit Along Came Jones. He is also famous for his rich, catchy laugh, which is a theme in many of his humorous songs. In 1969, Henri Salvador recorded a variation of Mah Nà Mah Nà titled Mais non, mais non (But No, But No or Of Course Not, Of Course Not), with lyrics he had written in French to Piero Umiliani's music.

Henri Salvador and his song Dans mon île (1957) was an influence on Antônio Carlos Jobim in formulating the Brazilian Bossa Nova style [1]. Caetano Veloso, a famous Brazilian composer and singer, made Henri Salvador famous to Brazilian audiences with the song Reconvexo, in which he says "quem não sentiu o swing de Henri Salvador?" ("who hasn't felt the swing of Henri Salvador?"). At age 70, Salvador was the voice-over of the crab Sebastian in the 1989 French dubbing of Disney's The Little Mermaid. Recordings of Embrasse La (Kiss the Girl) can be found on Youtube. Salvador discovered singers Keren Ann and Art Mengo. He died of a ruptured aneurysm at his home in the early hours of February 13, 2008. He was 90 years of age.


Henri 's music continues to be popular today among French communities in Canada. In 2000, Virgin Records released a CD featuring popular hits like Jazz Mediterrannee which continues to receive regular air play. In 2002 his album Chambre Avec Vue sold over two million copies. In 2005, Henri Salvador was awarded the Brazilian Order of Cultural Merit, which he received from the acclaimed singer and Minister of Culture, Gilberto Gil, in the presence of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for his influence on Brazilian culture, particularly on bossa nova, to whose invention he contributed.

He was also a commander of the French Légion d'honneur and of the National Order of Merit. In 2007 he released "Reverence" on V2 Records which features Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso. He then went on to perform the track La Vie C'est La Vie from the album Reverence on the BBC program Later … With Jools Holland, which aired on May 4, 2007.

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