DIGITAL REISSUES OF ALL THE ONJ ALBUMS SINCE 1986
The ONJ, as the "Orchestre National de Jazz" is often known, will soon be 25 years old. A life of a quarter-century is considerable for a formation which, right from its inception, was beset by pitfalls and all kinds of criticism: "extravagant laboratory", "distorted shop-window", "restrictive institutional vocation", etc. But the realities of this genuine saga – lasting from yesterdays to tomorrows, perpetually renewed, and yet ever-faithful to its initial aspirations – still managed to bring a project to life, that of a large jazz orchestra in France.
From the first mandate of François Jeanneau (in 1986) to that of Daniel Yvinec (its latest instance), the ONJ has never ceased to be close to the beauties and extremely strong demands of its own high level; and perhaps its greatest achievement has been to put one, supreme concern above all others: the music. Whether onstage or on record, the ONJ has told stories which all its leaders – and every musician taking part in the adventure – have taken time to experience and transform, not only for themselves but especially for others, i.e. the audience to which the ONJ has always turned.
To treat the ONJ as a single, continuing story would be to lessen the strength of its primary desire, the will to give birth to an orchestra whose possibilities were many. It would also be simplistic where the personalities of the orchestra's directors are concerned, not to mention the formidable musicians whom they incorporated into their various ensembles. Indeed, the work accomplished by this handsome handful – ten big-bands to date – cuts across the individual paths of each of the ONJ's members, and it does so every which way... As if the sum of their own stories was vastly greater than that of the ONJ alone; as if it confirmed that music is, first and foremost, an adventure that is human, an adventure of flesh, blood, sweat, tears (sometimes), great joy (often) and, above all, passion, both individual and collective.
It is this passion which has clasped in its embrace François Jeanneau, Antoine Hervé, Claude Barthélemy (twice), Denis Badault, Laurent Cugny, Didier Levallet, Paolo Damiani, Franck Tortiller and, today, Daniel Yvinec. It is also the same passion which caused the formers' paths to cross those of Gil Evans, Quincy Jones, Carla Bley, Michel Portal, John Scofield, Daniel Humair, Martial Solal, Steve Lacy, Joachim Kühn, even Philippe Découflé, amongst many others.
Twenty-one albums bear witness to these stories as diverse as they are outstanding, stories in which the music of jazz is explored, questioned, revisited and offered to an inquisitive audience in an approach that has been broadly educational, although never scholarly. Each story gives pride of place to the "collective" notion. Its sports-world equivalent would be the spirit of some great team from which each member, transcended by the project in common, would emerge a taller player. And if the analogy can be extended to prowess, the only "performance" delivered by these twenty-one opuses is this: they advance at every step.
So here are all the "ONJ Stories" which the AJON (or "Association pour le jazz en orchestre") and Abeille Musique propose to tell from the beginning of January 2011. Two months later, and then every two months after that, a new volume will become available – in digital form, and under the excellent conditions for which Bee Jazz has acquired its reputation – to complete a series of twenty-one, fully-remastered albums, together with an introduction which honours each prestigious mandate and particularly the musicians who have served the ONJ with such fiery enthusiasm.
The ONJ is 25... the best years of your life (so far!)