Christian Chevallier

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Prolific since the '60s in French pop and musical theater, Christian Chevallier also has decades of experience as a jazzman, starting out with a New Orleans jazz outfit playing a French venue called the…
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Prolific since the '60s in French pop and musical theater, Christian Chevallier also has decades of experience as a jazzman, starting out with a New Orleans jazz outfit playing a French venue called the Kentucky Club and an alliance with the expatriate swing genius tenor saxophonist Don Byas. Chevallier's family had a strong musical tradition, his father a pianist and his mother a vocalist. As a young man Chevallier began with formal studies at the Nante Conservatory, his mastering of theory, counterpoint, and arranging coinciding with the Nazi occupation of France, ending shortly before his country's inevitable liberation.

Trad jazz beckoned by the end of the decade and Byas became the leader of a pickup rhythm section at the infamous Tabou venue in the early '50s, in which the pianist was a regular. Chevallier continued occupying the piano bench in various jazz combos in the next few years, working with Bobby Jaspar, Michel de Villers, and George Daly, among others, and nabbing several awards in 1956 and 1957, including an honor named after the innovative bandleader Stan Kenton.

Chevallier began to front a big band of his own in 1956, using the ensemble to record the score for the film Rendez-Vous à Melbourne. In the fall of 1959 the French radio symphony presented a program of Chevallier's compositions at the Palais de Chaillot. In 2003 he created a Christmas album with singer Nana Mouskouri, and his concoctions ranging from grandiose to silly continue to be in demand for reissue on compilations such as Sunnyside Cafe Series: Pop à Paris.