Comic Review: Jazz Club - Alexandre Clérisse
Jazz Club - Alexandre Clérisse ****
Originally published in France by Dargaud in 2007, now in an eBook English translation from Europe Comics, Alexandre Clérisse's Jazz Club is a slight work perhaps, but the bold, colourful painted artwork has a stylish quality that not only fits in very much with its jazz theme and the 60s' period characteristics of the work, but it also represents other moods that its main character undergoes over the course of 33 years.
Jazz Club opens in Los Angeles in 1966, just as Norman's life is going off the rails. A soprano saxophonist in a jazz band, the lifestyle of drugs and alcohol have been taking their toll, and now his girlfriend Emily has walked out on him. Unable to make his instrument sing, Norman walks out on his band in the middle of a set, tells them to cancel the tour and goes off on a bender. Meeting a woman in the bar, the two of them head out in a car into the desert, and into trouble for Norman.
Before we get to the nature of the trouble, the story jumps to 33 years later to the South of France on the eve of the millennium. Norman has long ago left the lifestyle of Los Angeles behind him for a more peaceful existence in the French countryside, but he hasn't entirely left his troubles behind him. Emily, who he hasn't seen for over 30 years is about to come and visit him for the New Year celebrations, but on New Year's Eve in 1999 much of France is to be devastated by storms, and there's more than one brewing in the woods around Norman's new home.
The plot line that ties the two time periods of Jazz Club together is light-hearted and a bit silly, involving missing jazz musicians and a strange cult. Also in the intervening years, Norman has become something of a jazz legend, much to his astonishment since he knows he's never been able to squeeze a half-way melodic note out of his instrument since the disastrous final tour after Emily left him. But there's more to Jazz Club than just its plot. Alexandre Clérisse's art work is not only quite beautiful, but it does manage to capture a world of contrasts of place, character and time.
Clérisse's painted panels have a 60s' hepcat cartoon feel about them, but this style extends well beyond the jazz club scenes, capturing the heat and danger of the Californian desert and contrasting it with the gorgeous winter colours of the south of France. There are lots of little details in the panels that add to mood and character and a lovely sense of movement, particularly in the windswept French countryside scenes. Once the conspiracy plot has been blown away, there remains a poignant sense of two people having gone on a long journey, and it's more than just from LA to the South of France.
Jazz Club by Alexandre Clérisse is published by Europe Comics as a graphic novel eBook on 16th May 2018. Europe Comics is a joint digital initiative run by 13 European comics industry players from 8 European countries. Its main purpose is the creation of a pan-European catalog of award-winning graphic novels from across the continent, published digitally in English and available through major retailers and library networks. Europe Comics also works towards the promotion of European authors and the creation of a European comics online directory, meant for both comics readers and professionals.
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