A very European group of surely four of the most recognisable international Classic jazz musicians in recent years.
With a vast range of interests and a collective résumé which reads as a who’s who of current early jazz, the Viper Club quartet delve into the vault of the infamous Onxy Club. Some of the most compelling, undeniably hard-swinging recordings to come out of New York in the mid 30’s by the fabulous ensemble led by Stuff Smith, one of the most distinctive voices in jazz and preeminent jazz violinists in history..
THE TIMES UK
FRANCIS COUVREUX FR
BEBOP SPOKEN HERE UK
LA GAZETTE BLEUE D’ACTION JAZZ FR
JAZZ LIVES US
TCHA LIMBERGER needs little introduction. Award winning multi-instrumentalist and vocalist acclaimed and much loved across musical genres, celebrated within the jazz and world/folk music worlds equally as a singer and instrumentalist. One of the most important figures in folk music of the Carpathian basin as well as being a prominent figure in the jazz world known for world class original improvisations and powerful swinging vocals.
Jerome Etcheberry is fresh from the success of his widely celebrated homage to the great trumpet master Louis Armstrong, Satchmocracy. Stuff smith cited Armstrong as his primary influence and Etcheberry, probably Europe’s most exalted trumpeter, stamps his mark of excellence firmly on this project with his customary exquisite tone, timing and energy.
It’s hard to imagine a drumless ensemble without DAVE KELBIE and SEBASTIEN GIRARDOT completing the musical circle. This highly respected rhythm section has performed with numerous projects on main stages of festivals across the globe. Not least Django a la Creole and Don Vappie & Jazz Creole. Lauded universally for their flexibility & variety of swing and the solidity of their accompaniment, Tcha’s description of this long-standing and proven bi-nome seems even more appropriate in this setting: “The Rolls Royce of Rhythm Sections”.
TRACKLISTS & RECORDINGS
THE TIMES UK
FRANCIS COUVREUX FR
BEBOP SPOKEN HERE UK
LA GAZETTE BLEUE D’ACTION JAZZ FR
JAZZ LIVES US
COULEURS JAZZ FR
THE OBSERVER UK
COULEURS JAZZ FR
SUNDAY TIMES UK
JAZZ DA GAMA CANADA
FRANCIS COUVREUX FR 25.11.2023
A total success and undoubtedly one of the albums of the year
Viper club. What is it? The quartet takes its name from a piece written in 1936 by the violinist Stuff Smith, “You’se a viper,” which quickly became a standard. Viper club is the Tcha Limberger trio (Tcha Limberger, violin, vocals, Dave Kelbie, guitar, and Sébastien Girardot, double bass) to which the French trumpeter Jérôme Etcheberry, a sought-after sideman and current leader of Satchmocracy, an octet (in which Sébastien Girardot is also found), joined. Satchmocracy pays tribute to the father of jazz, and its two recent albums (on Camille productions) have been acclaimed by critics.
This is indeed the ideal team to celebrate a largely forgotten group, that of Stuff Smith and his Onyx club band (named after the New York club where the group began), one of the first orchestras to bring swing to life in the mid-1930s, with an original lineup putting the violin at the forefront of jazz in partnership with a trumpet, that of the brilliant Jonah Jones.
One of the best rhythm sections of this so-called classical jazz (Dave Kelbie, a metronomic accompanist, and Sébastien Girardot, whose authority and solid roundness of the double bass are highlighted in several tracks) more than compensates for the absence of piano and drums in Stuff Smith’s Onyx club. Flexible, light, and remarkably effective, this true swing machine lays the groundwork for two prominent soloists. A talented multi-instrumentalist (he also plays guitar and clarinet), Tcha Limberger feels at home in music. Very connected to Hungarian music and Gypsy swing (he is the son of guitarist Vivi Limberger, who played in the 70s/80s with Fapy Lafertin’s Waso group), Tcha Limberger practices high-flying jazz here, sometimes with bluesy accents (cf Wabash blues). A violinist with a burning sound and incredible drive, he combines sensitivity, swing, and lyricism in his constantly inventive improvisations (cf his incendiary interventions on “I’m putting all my eggs,” “Undecided,” or “S’wonderful,” for example). On half of the tracks, Tcha also reveals himself as a passionate singer who lives the music, with his bandmates occasionally providing backing vocals.
Freely inspired by this rare violin-trumpet association of Smith and Jones, Le Viper club takes on 5 titles from their repertoire (“Taint’ no use,” “Onyx club spree,” “I hope Gabriel hears my music…”) and also refreshes standards such as “After you’ve gone,” “My Blue heaven,” “Swanee river,” “Wabash blues…”). Let’s take “Undecided,”; we’ve heard it a thousand times, of course, but never with this instrumentation, rarely in such a high-end version with breathtaking solos, and here it is sung and scatted. Because, even if they are only four, the musicians sound like a real orchestra, thanks in particular to the power of Jérôme Etcheberry’s trumpet, always flamboyant and very spirited, combining fierce energy and fertile imagination, but also thanks to impeccable execution and arrangements: when one presents the theme or solos, the other punctuates their speech with subtle counterpoints (cf “It ain’t no use”) or solos in parallel.
This is music that hasn’t aged, especially when renewed with this passion and freshness by jazz aesthetes of this caliber. A total success and undoubtedly one of the albums of the year.
THE TIMES UK 15.11.2023 ****
This quartet, led by the French trumpeter Jérôme Etcheberry and the Belgian violinist Tcha Limberger, generates effortless momentum
If there’s one particularly encouraging trait to the current jazz revival in Britain, it’s that newcomers such as Ezra Collective aren’t afraid of a little unassuming, unpretentious joie de vivre. Back in the 1930s, when the fiddle player Stuff Smith and the trumpeter Jonah Jones were one of the most in-demand acts on 52nd Street, these things were, of course, taken for granted.
So, this is an apt moment for 21st-century musicians to revisit the extrovert brand of hot jazz and swing that Smith and Jones recorded nine decades or so ago. Led by the French trumpeter Jérôme Etcheberry and the renowned Belgian manouche violinist Tcha Limberger, the Viper Club may be a compact, drummerless quartet, yet they generate effortless momentum thanks to the unobtrusive rhythm guitar of Dave Kelbie and the double bass of Sébastien Girardot. (If those two names are familiar, it’s because I’ve often raved about their work in another debonair ensemble, Django à la Créole, a vehicle for that suave American clarinettist Evan Christopher.) There’s a hint of that group’s ability to inject a Latin tinge on the version of Ballin’ the Jack on this disc, a tune that Jelly Roll Morton made his own. After a languid opening, Etcheberry and Limberger take flight with concise solos. As on Smith and Jones’s own vintage records, there’s never a risk that the string instrument will be overwhelmed. And on the vocal numbers, including the genial I Hope Gabriel Likes My Music, Limberger is a thoroughly relaxed and idiomatic presence. Elsewhere,Viper’s Moan becomes an exercise in understated, bluesy swing. This band are no museum piece; the music still speaks to anyone with a pulse..
JAZZ MAG FR 01.12.2023
Tain’t No Use by The Viper Club
Jérôme Etcheberry could rightfully claim the title of the best French disciple of Louis Armstrong. He has provided many proofs of this within various formations, including Laurent Mignard’s Duke Orchestra. As a leader, his album “Satchmocracv” demonstrated that not only has he perfectly assimilated the language and spirit of his role model, but he has also inherited from him an inventiveness that allows him to revisit his work and bring it back to life in an original way. Such ability is found in this album where he is associated with Tcha Limberger, a singer and multi-instrumentalist born in Belgium and well-known in various circles, notably in the world of Gypsy jazz. Here, he plays the violin, and his vocal interventions attest to his familiarity with the language of jazz. The duo is propelled by a rhythm section composed of Sébastien Girardot and Dave Kelbie, and this original quartet revives the hot jazz of the 1930s, the one of Stuff Smith, Irving Berlin, Charlie Shavers, Fats Waller, George Gershwin, and a few others who marked the period. Needless to say, swing is on the agenda, and thanks to individual talent and the complicity of the partners, this dive into a bygone world is something invigorating.
COULEURS JAZZ FR 07.11.2023
Tain’t No Use by The Viper Club
When the great violinist Stuff Smith arrived in New York in 1936, he and trumpeter Jonah Jones put together a small orchestra that for four years graced the Onyx Club on 52nd Street.
It’s this adventure that Jérôme Etcheberry, Tcha Limberger, Sébastien Girardot and Dave Kelbie evoke here in the quartet The Viper Club, which takes its name from You’ Se a Viper, Stuff Smith’s famous composition whose double-entendre lyrics allude to marijuana, a highly prized substance at the time.
Taking up the repertoire of Stuff Smith’s Onyx Club Orchestra, they perform music whose subtleties they know.
A skilled vocalist and inventive soloist, Tcha Limberger uses all the power of his violin to phrase with energy.
And it takes a lot of energy to play alongside a trumpeter of the calibre of Jérôme Etcheberry, who recently devoted two albums (Satchmocracy) to Louis Armstrong, whose disciple Jonah Jones was.
In top form and in his element, Jérôme plays with flamboyance, lining up remarkably well-constructed choruses full of surprises.
Double bassist Sébastien Girardot and guitarist Dave Kelbie make up for the absence of piano and drums on the original recordings by creating a rhythmic pulse that’s both firm and supple, and a harmonic carpet that inspires the two soloists.
Musicians who keep the tradition alive by renewing and updating it.
JAZZ LIVES US 30.10.2023
IT’S LIKE THE PAST, BUT ONLY BETTER”: “T’AIN’T NO USE” with JEROME ETCHEBERRY, TCHA LIMBERGER, DAVE KELBIE, SEBASTIEN GIRARDOT
I played a few tracks from this new CD for a friend, and her response was simple, “It’s like the past, but only better!” That seemed if not heresy, a paradox, and I asked her to explain. “Well, they sound at first like Stuff Smith and his Onyx Club Boys, which is a wonderful thing, but then again, they remind me of Bill Coleman with Stephane and Django, of Fats, of Louis, of any number of memorable Thirties records. But the best part is that they are alive and well: this isn’t an archaeological trip into Jazz Repertory: we can hear and see them in 2023!”
In case you think my friend is being hyperbolic, I direct you to the post I wrote about the Viper Club in November 2022.
The musicianship is extraordinary: there isn’t a dull or formulaic passage on the disc. It’s a cliche, but the four heroes play as if the fate of the world depended on their swing. And they rescue us, no question. I can testify to this because I nearly ruined my breakfast the other morning because of this disc. Through the happy generosity of the OAO, I now have a very fine CD player / radio on the kitchen counter. I started the disc while I was making breakfast, and got so delightedly engrossed in one track, BABY BROWN, that I kept it on repeat while my eggs and toast came near to inedibility. Dangerously thrilling music, even if you’re not cooking.
Many wonderful bands do the hard work of reproducing venerable recorded performances, and when they succeed, they sound exactly like the Brunswick GOT THE JITTERS by Don Redman or the like. This is a majestic accomplishment, and I know how much labor and sensitivity it requires. But the Viper Club has more expansive goals in mind: to inhabit a way of playing, a way of looking at life, as well as evoking their and our heroes. They are free-range in that their recording of, let’s say, a Stuff Smith composition will bring back memories of an Onyx Club performance, but also of other parallel wizardries.
So the imaginary jukebox is exploded in the best ways, as if Wingy and Henry Red had stopped in to jam with Stephane and Wilson Myers. A panorama, a coloring book without lines to hold back their spirits. Louis would have called it Dee-lightful. And so do I.
A digression. While I was on YouTube, looking for audio-visual evidence for this post (I had naively typed in “viper club”) what came up was a new horror film called THE VIPER CLUB, starring Susan Sarandon. Sarandon is a great actress. But I’ll take this band any day, and there’s not a horrifying note to be found when they play.
This disc and other marvels can be purchased at https://lejazzetal.com/shop/ — the online record store of my dreams.
LA GAZETTE BLEUE D’ACTION JAZZ FR 29.10.2023
Tain’t No Use by The Viper Club
Who remembers Stuff Smith “The Crazy Violin Genius” and Jonah Jones “Louis Armstrong Second”? They made their mark on the jazz scene in the late 1930s during epic concerts at the Onyx Club in New York.
Tcha Limberger and Jérôme Etcheberry remembered it and this album is a tribute to this hot jazz , to the swing of this unusual team of trumpet and violin. With them, the Franco-Australian Sébastien Girardot and the British Dave Kelbie provide a rhythm without a drummer but just as effective.
Jérôme Etcheberry, our French Armstrong who paid tribute to him with his two albums “Satchmocracy” and Tcha Limberger the multi-instrumentalist with gypsy origins, immersed in popular music from the East, occupy the front of the stage dialoguing and tirelessly improvising with a swing virtuoso full of vitality. The live recording has a real vintage sound, you are instantly transported to the days of the Onyx Club. The tradition continues.
No monkey perched on Tcha’s shoulder like his extravagant predecessor but a reference for the name of the group to his composition “You’re A Viper” (or also “The reefer Song”, the song of the joint…) banned by the US government for its celebration of marijuana use. And yes, this so-called classical jazz was also already incendiary and the Viper Club reminds us of this brilliantly.
And so contrary to the title of this album meaning “It’s useless” we find it very useful!
ALBUM REVIEW. BEBOP SPOKEN HERE UK 09.10.2023
The Viper Club: Tain’t No Use
Based around the Onyx Club band led by Stuff Smith and Jonah Jones in the 1930s this is as good as it gets when it comes to music that swings. Imagine a truncated version of The House of the Black Gardenia and you’re getting close.
French trumpet player Etcheberry is amazingly powerful without coming across as brash or flamboyant and, alongside Belgian violinist and vocalist Limberger the duo bring pre-war NYC to life. Backed by (quote) ‘the Rolls Royce of rhythm sections’ – no Citroëns or Peugeots for these guys – in the form of French bassist Girardot and British guitarist Kelbie the music swings like only music from that era can.
A choice selection of classic songs including a few vocals by Limburger this is the era personified. It doesn’t get any better than this or does it…? On November 5, at the Classic Jazz Party, Rico Tomasso, Emma Fisk, Josh Duffee and a few others will be mining this rich seam. Win, lose or draw, that too is going to be well worth hearing.
JUST JAZZ UK 01.12.2023
Taint No Use
I have just listened to this latest CD that I received from Dave Kelbie. As soon as I saw who was involved on it, I had to get stuck into it straight away. Here was music from America’s swingiest times, the mid to late 1930s, early 40s. Anyone remember the Onyx Club in New York where Stuff Smith and Jonah Jones held forth? Music that was free-wheeling but with tight arrangements in performance. Those sounds emanated from the CD … and why not … here are four top musicians at the top of their game, playing beautifully, but you can feel,
enjoying themselves, as well.
It is some band, only four musicians, but a band, nonetheless! All four are recognisable international jazz musicians. You can tell their interest in jazz covers a wide spectrum of interests and a collective résumé which reads just like a who’s who of early jazz. Here the four of them delve into the vault of the infamous Onxy Club, where some of the most hard-swinging recordings to come out of New York in the mid 30’s that was played by violinist’s, Stuff Smith’s band. I’ll let the sleeve notes introduce you the musicians; “Tcha Limberger is an award winning multi-instrumentalist and vocalist acclaimed and much loved across musical genres, celebrated within the jazz and world/folk music worlds equally as a singer and instrumentalist.” “Trumpeter, Jerome Etcheberry is fresh from the success of his widely celebrated homage to the great trumpet master Louis Armstrong, ‘Satchmocracy’. Stuff Smith cited Armstrong as his primary influence and Etcheberry, probably Europe’s most exalted trumpeter, stamps his mark of excellence firmly on this project.”
“Dave Kelbie and Sébastien Girardot complete the musical circle. This highly respected rhythm section has performed with numerous projects on main stages of festivals across the globe. Not least Django a la Creole and Don Vappie and Jazz Creole. Lauded universally for their flexibility and variety of swing and the solidity of their accompaniment, Tcha’s description of this long-standing and proven binome seems even more appropriate in this setting: ‘The Rolls Royce of Rhythm Sections’.”
This was an enjoyable hours listening and can recommend this CD to folk who like a bit of Swing in their life.
JAZZ HALO B 19.11.2023
For fans of legendary hot jazz with a nuanced twist
The Viper Club, with Belgian violinist Tcha Limberger and French trumpeter Jérôme Etcheberry at the forefront, draws inspiration for ‘Tain’t No Use’ loosely from the recordings of violinist Stuff Smith and trumpeter Jonah Jones at the Onyx Club in New York in the mid-1930s. Stuff Smith (1909-1967) was an American swing violinist best known for his track ‘If You’re a Viper’ (1936), hence The Viper Club. American trumpeter Jonah Jones (1909-2000), nicknamed King Louis II, was an obvious reference to Louis Armstrong.
Guitarist Dave Kelbie wants to emphasize that with this quartet, they aim for their own yet serene approach. The expressive dialogue between violin and trumpet is deeply rooted in blues, swinging authentically in style with Australian bassist Sebastien Girardot and British guitarist Dave Kelbie, described as ‘the Rolls Royce of rhythm sections.’
With a touch of vocals and occasional whistling (‘Baby Brown’), they present a carefully curated repertoire of infectious pre-war jazz with standards such as ‘My Blue Heaven,’ ‘Lawd you made the night too long’ (Victor Young), ‘Tain’t no use’ (Burton Lane), ‘I’m crazy ‘bout my baby’ (Fats Waller), ‘’s Wonderful’ (George Gershwin), ‘I’m putting all my eggs in one basket,’ ‘My Walking Stick’ (Irving Berlin), ‘After you’ve gone’ (Turner Layton/Hernry Creamer). ‘Vipers moan’ (Willie Bryant) and ‘Onyx club spree’ (Stuff Smith) clearly reference the original inspiration. A total of 17 tracks evoke the ‘hot’ atmosphere of the New York club scene in the 1930s-40s.
With trumpeter Jérôme Etcheberry, who recently released tribute albums to Louis Armstrong, Tcha Limberger, who masters the manouche jazz style on the violin like no other, guitarist Dave Kelbie, who excels in the gypsy style of Django, and Sebastien Girardot, who develops a solid bass line reminiscent of New Orleans swing and gypsy style, The Viper Club brings together today’s living and vibrant top musicians performing at the highest level of memorable jazz from the 1930s.
For fans of legendary hot jazz with a nuanced twist.