cover picture
Michel Bénébig:
Nouméa To New York
Label no label
recorded April 2015 in USA
online distribution


Michel Bénébig Hammond B-3 organ
Houston Person tenor sax
Carl Lockett guitar
Lewis Nash drums


Track List
01: Blues For Rog
02: Nouméa To New York
03: Une Terre
04: Running After You
05: AJC Blues
06: Blue Butterfly
07: Lucia
08: Something Happened


I know of no one more dedicated to the Hammond organ and Leslie sound in jazz than Michel Benebig and the surprising thing about this admission is that Michel does not come from the United States where Jazz Organ music originated nor does he come from the European or Asian continents where this music has been enamored and copied for decades. Michel comes to us from the Pacific Rim and, more specifically, the magnificent island of New Caledonia. He May well be the only musician in this country, (also referred to as Noumea), who has attempted to play, let alone, master the Hammond organ. A self-taught jazz organist, Michel familiarized himself with the styles of Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff, Jack McDuff and his true mentor, Rhoda Scott. He worked diligently, going above and beyond the efforts of most other budding jazz organists, to hone his craft and develop his skills. Not always being near the action was inhibiting, to be sure, but possessing inexhaustible energy and a deep love for the sound of the Hammond organ and Leslie speaker kept Michel moving forward. Periodic trips back to the States with his wife and family resulted in more opportunities to meet and play with prominent jazz organists and soul- jazz musicians. Michel’s generosity also played an important role. He would continue to invite players to his country to perform with him. Guitarists Bruce Forman, Frank Potenza and Carl Lockett came. Organists Tony Monaco and Rhoda Scott were there. Saxophonist Doug Web and drummer Lewis Nash also made the long trip for the opportunity to play jazz in this paradise setting. All this strengthened Michel’s confidence and increased his awareness of American-based jazz organ vocabulary, styles and traditions.
I believe Michel now when he tells me that playing with saxophonist Houston Person, guitarist Carl Lockett and drummer Lewis Nash on this recording session was something he had prepared for all of his life. I think you will agree that the opening track, ‘Blues For Rog’ is evidence enough of Michel’s love for Jimmy Smith and that Michel’s sensational playing is irrefutable. To have Houston’s signature sound on this recording is like displaying a gold seal of approval – just ask any jazz organist. Carl Lockett’s country-picking-blues-style fits beautifully as it did back in the day when Carl did his own stint with Jimmy Smith. Drummer Lewis Nash was the only drummer for this session. He played with Michel in New Caledonia and easily brought their collaborative groove to the Big Apple. Their travels have been described musically in ‘Noumea to New York’. This one has a nice loping, ‘road-song-sound’ to it that gives Lewis some space to spread his wings. ‘Une Terre’ is a ballad written by Michel’s wife and musical partner, Shem. This has a nice R & B grind that Houston owned from the outset. His lush tone makes it perfect for dancing in the moonlight or any other intimate occasion, for that matter. Michel’s next piece in this array of originals, ‘Running After You’, keeps a relentless groove going as Carl comps and chomps and Lewis’ edgy groove evolves into a shuffle that always keeps our feet tappin’. A slower shuffle fills the bill for ‘AJC Blues’. Houston takes the first solo after a memorable head that is followed by one of Michel’s best efforts on the date. Carl’s arsenal is deep and wide but his country pickin’ on this track says it all for me. Michel further demonstrates his Hammond skills by switching to the ‘squabble’ registration for ‘Blue Butterfly’. By pulling out the first and last four drawbars on the Hammond organ a player can get, what Jimmy Smith called, ‘the Erroll Garner sound’. Michel uses it almost exclusively here; conversing with himself by making slight sonic shifts. ‘Lucia’ is a boogaloo-sort-of-groove which went immediately into Carl’s wheel-house. Michel glides his fingers across the manuals, keeping the rhythm steady and our heads nodding to the groove. Finally, ‘Something Happened’ depicts the journey of this entire session for me. It climbs as if ascending to another place; another time. I suppose I heard the essence of the session all in this one track: Noumea to New York is where I’d been.
Michel Benebig is a humble man with a heart of gold. He leaves his country of New Caledonia where he is recognized on the streets and acknowledged as a ‘star’ in nightclubs to acquiesce this status in America so that he might absorb more of the music he loves and yearns for. He has been a diplomat for his country on many levels and an authentic ambassador of Jazz Organ throughout the world. This session, to me, exemplifies not only his unwavering love for Jazz Organ but his reaching to the upper echelon of jazz organists worldwide.
Pete Fallico
KCSM ‘The Bay Area’s Jazz Station’


Sound Samples
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