Featured Act Friday: Benoit Viellefon and his Orchestra

February 18, 2011

FAF time! It's Friday after all, and it's becoming kind of a habit to feature one of our acts with a quick Q&A and a few videos. The tough part is picking who to feature.

As it's the Friday after Valentines Day, maybe it's time we got a little romantic and who's more romantic than the French? Literally no one. Don't try and say the Italians, it's definitely the French. From this most romantic of nations sprung Benoit Viellefon and his Orchestra - an earth shatteringly good French swing and Jazz band that we happened across a few months back. Benoit and his band could cover Enter Sandman and make it sound like the most achingly sincere French love song ever put to record, but thankfully their set consists of expertly chosen classics mixed in with a few hidden gems from the first part of the 20th Century. Available in anything from a classy, subtle three-piece to a sprawling raucous 8 piece, the Orchestra can suit the needs of any wedding or event.

Benoit was kind enough to answer a few of our probing questions in his own inimitable style...

Hello! Who are you?

I am Benoit Viellefon, French jazz guitarist & singer. I’m very old fashioned, with a Georgian house, a pencil moustache and my orchestra. I've never had a television set.

How would you describe your act in three words?

Happy, nostalgic, hot (dance music)


What sets you apart from similar acts?

Well, quite a lot.
We play 1920-1930-1940’s music with some of the musicians in the band born in the 1930’s, so it’s the real deal. They played it all their life and give you the real thing.

That means hot swing, big band music, French gypsy jazz & chanson, Latin music and Eastern European traditional music.

The line up is pretty unusual; we have drums, double bass, accordion, guitar, two vocals, piano, trumpet, clarinet, bas clarinet, tenor saxophone. We are seven people, but everybody plays at least two or three instruments.

Otherwise what can I say? I sing in French and English, being a French crooner, the women like it obviously. They love the clothes we wear as well, a mix of Italian gangster & gentlemen. We’ve got an all star line up of jazz & world musician that have recorded with just about everybody, including Georgie Fame, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, John Mc Laughlin, Ska Cubano, Kitty Daisy Lewis, Jules Holland, and so many other big names. So you’ll wonder why do they play private shows? Well, they love the repertoire and the energy of the orchestra. Everybody sings along and get up to dance every single time, and the musicians get a real kick from it, and enjoy it than playing sessions for pop acts.

When was your first gig and how old were you?

Well it all depends:

My first show was in 1991 when I was 18.

My trumpeter’s (Eddie Tantan Thorton) first show was in 1937 when he was 6.

The band’s first show was in October 2009 and in a bit more than a year we went from playing London clubs to be the headliner on the jazz stage in Glastonbury 2011 and get booked abroad on a regular basis.

What has been your favourite Event (and why)?

Playing In Japan was by far the best, best food; best trains, best hotels, best sound engineers, best audience, and people are so polite and gentle! Otherwise Speakeasies and burlesque shows are always fun, we often end up having all the girls joining us on stage to perform with us.

My personal favourites though are the weddings. I’m very romantic and old fashion, and I have put together the orchestra to play all the happy & nostalgic music that is meaningful and touches people. I think that you can’t find more meaningful moment than weddings and seeing all generations really going for it on the dance floor is a musician’s dream! Besides the women always look their best and we love it.

Thanks Benoit!

If you're interested in booking Benoit and his Orchestra, get in touch on 020 8877 1102 or email sales@sternbergclarke.co.uk