In memory of Johnny Peret

In memory of Johnny Peret
In memory of my friend Johnny Peret, vibist, drummer, accordeonist extraordinaire

Friday, March 15, 2013

PIERRE CAVALLI : Swiss guitar virtuoso, studio musician and jazzman



Jazztone Rec. SJS-1263 – 1966? (Switzerland)

Rare euro vocal jazz LP recorded in a small Swiss private club in 1966”.  It seems everything is becoming “rare” these days. There was a time when this LP was a common occurrence in second-hand shops and could be bought for the equivalent of a couple of euros or even less (I bought mine for 65 Belgian Francs .. OK it was a long while ago!). I was therefore more than amazed when I saw that some “specialized” websites are not afraid to ask prices above € 100.- for this album, which is a bit outrageous IMHO.

The problem with this LP is … Norma Green.  I could do without her vocals which I find slightly irritating. I could not find any info on her, apparently she was British. Luckily she only sings on half of the selections, the others are instrumentals and they amply justify the acquisition of the album.  Pierre Cavalli’s playing is nothing but outstanding.  He has a very unique and personal style, very bluesy for a Swiss …  As a matter of fact, this album contains one of the bluesiest versions of Django, .just superb!

It is unfortunate that Cavalli did not get the opportunity to record more in a jazz context.  However, if you are open-minded I recommend you seek his other recordings (EP and LP), more commercial but where he demonstrates an astounding technique .. I guess it is to be expected from a musician who befriended both Django and Les Paul in the Fifties, was the first of the few Europeans who play the Gibson-double neck.  He is often considered a pioneer of instrumental rock and roll, in Europe and was a keen sound-experimentator.  Imagine a Swiss Danny Gatton in the 50s.! 

Norma Green            vocal
Pierre Cavalli            guitar
Bob Jaquillard          bass
Stuff Combe             drums

1.      there will never be another you
2.      django
3.      the lady is a tramp
4.      days of wine and roses
5.      cry me a river
6.      autumn leaves
7.      angels eyes
8.      all the things you are
9.      i left my heart in san francisco
10.  nuages
11.  kansas city
12.  lonesome road

Biographical notes

Browsing the web for some info on Cavalli I landed on a French blog entitled 
Bide & Musique
where I found these extensive biographical notes written by a musician who knew Cavalli personnaly (actually one of Cavalli's guitar students). 

I also recommend this other excellent French website which has an extensive discography of Pierre Cavalli "rock" EP  (Amour du Rock and Roll)   

Pierre Cavalli  started studying violin at a young age and get quickly interested in the guitar.  In the late 40s, he started to commute between Switzerland and Paris where he began playing electric guitar in the famous Jazz Cellars of St . Germain des Prés, before he was even 20. 

In 1948, he was back in Switzerland, playing and doing some recording sessions with organist Fred Bolher (real name . Fritz Walter Böhler) Then he  moved again to Paris and played with various local and expat jazzmen, among others the American pianist Art Simmons.  He could be seen and heard in all the main jazz clubs of the time (Blue Note-Chat qui Peche..etc.).

Around 1955-1956  he met the blind singer-pianist François Charpin.  They formed a trio with the famous double bass player Michel Gaudry and recorded for the Barclay label.

Pierre Cavalli lead for a while his own Orchestra playing the hits of the day and recorded under his name a series of instrumental cover versions of popular tunes (When, Rebel-Rouser..etc) on Barclay and on on Bel-Air, a Barclay’s subsidiary.  He became a mainstay of the Barclay Studio, working often with bassman Pierre Cullaz, backing popstars of the day He often backed female singers such as Franca Di Rienzo and wrote arrangements for  Dalida.

He can be heard on numerous Hazy Osterwald records but always as a studio musician. 

In March 1962 (7-8 March to be precise), he was in a recording studio with Sréphane Grappelli for an album that will be entitled “Feeling + Finesse = Jazz”.    The rhythm section is among the best you could find on the old Continent:   Daniel Humair –another Swiss – is on Drums, Guy Pedersen on double bass, Léo Petit on rhythm guitar.  

The repertoire was Django influenced.  Pierre Cavalli demonstrates that he is a redoutable technician (this album was issued on Atlantic and was reissued on Collectables).   Cavalli had met and knew Django quite well, they were frequent visitors of the same jazz caves and clubs in the Paris of the late 40s , early 50s.

In 1964 he recorded with Austrian pianist Friedrich Gulda and a.o. the Italian guitarist/bassplayer Franco Cerri (MPS).  He made session with Hans Koller.

Between 1966 and 1978 Cavalli records several albums for nearly forgotten (often budget) 
labels such as 

Activ.(Pierre Cavalli

and a fine Bossa Nova album on the Sunset label (Souvenirs from Brazil).

In addition to being a studio musician , Pierre Cavalli ran his father’s Musical Instrument Shop in Zurich.


  1. Original LP rip - mp3 320k

  2. This sounds very promising. Never heard of the guy before. Thanks for the introduction!

    Seems that shops can offer the album for high prices, as people are willing to pay them - popsike lists one auction, where the album was sold for 157 usd and one for 127 usd ;-)

    The bossa nova album piqued my curiosity, too, of course. An mp3 version is available here:

  3. Thanks for this one. I've never heard of Norma Green and I can't turn up any info either (anyone have anything?) Actually I find her contribution quite acceptable after a few listens.

  4. Thanks! I really love this guy Cavalli's guitar playing. Both raw and lyrical! I see that in 1969, he played lead guitar on a supposedly very strange krautrock/jazz fusion album called The Oimels, by the Wolfgang Dauner Quintet.

    1. Thanks Markus. I don't know this Dauner album but would love to hear it. If you know of a link in the blogsphere, let us know.

    2. Both download links are working here

    3. ......or here's a couple in lossless

    4. Thanks, I had DL a single with A Day in the Life a couple of years ago but had no idea Cavalli played on it. Looking forward to hearing the whole album.

  5. Friends ! Have a look here :

    you'll find, among others fine shares, this one :

    Pierre Cavalli - The fantastic guitar sound of Pierre Cavalli [1973]

    1. Merci Bowhani, je ne connaissais pa ce blog.
      il y a aussi un Dave Pike avec Leo Wright

  6. Hi folks,
    does anyone have a rip to share of Cavalli's Sitting On My Guitar LP? I have been searching, searching, searching for this...
    best wishes

  7. "Sitting on my Guitar" can be found at my place:

  8. Hi all. Although she's probably not the best asset on that record, there are 2 other LPs of Norma Green that I own, respectively called "Into the 7th dimension" and "Norma Green"

  9. LPR - thanks so much for that link!