King René Publication date : April 27, 2016
René Urtreger, one of the great names in jazz, has played with Miles Davis, Chet Baker, and Dizzy Gillepsie.
Agnès Desarthe is a novelist and translator. She is the author of ten books which have been warmly received by critics and readers alike. Her translations include works by Virginia Woolf and Cinthia Ozick.
"King René" is a good choice of title, echoing the Count of Provence who preferred the company of artists to that of nobles and warlords. This same modesty and style is to be found in René Urtreger who is a living history of jazz.
To say that his life is like a novel is to say the least of it. On stage at the Blue Note in Paris at the age of 18, he was the official pianist for Miles Davis, whom he accompanied on the soundtrack of the film Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (“Lift to the Scaffold”), and with whom he performed all over Europe. Jazz technician par excellence, he accompanied the greats, from Lionel Hampton to Chet Baker, via Dizzy Gillespie. As custodian of the science of jazz, he perfectly embodies all the exuberance, as well as the demands and the romanticism, both melancholic and eternally young.
Agnès Desarthe gives us the true story of this life in music, and the music of a timeless artist, complete with indiscretions, encounters, demons, and always humble and relentless quest for the right note.
Following Agnes Desarthe as she unravels the Urtreger mystery, we realise that what we have here is the life story of an artist up there with the greats, a Chopin who invented the soundtrack of an era.