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The French Impressionists

Glaswegian pianist Malcolm Fisher was the original French Impressionist -- musically if not in terms of painting -- when he first dreamed up the idea of a jazz/Tin Pan Alley-informed group in 1981. He was helped in this goal via the Postcard label -- neighbor/label owner Alan Horne suggested a compilation appearance while singer Paul Quinn and Aztec Camera members Roddy Frame and Campbell Owens helped with the music. The two songs recorded surfaced on the legendary Crepuscule comp The Fruit of the Original Sin in late 1981, but when Fisher made the group more of a going concern, he did so by forming a new quartet, with singer Beatrice Colin, bassist Paul Yacoubian, and drummer Barry Ross. Fisher's piano playing remained the core of the group, while the rhythm section provided gentle, elegant swing and Colin added light, sweet crooning. However, she was soon canned after some early recordings in 1982 (later surfacing on the 1986 reissue of another Crepuscule compilation, From Brussels with Love); after some auditions and false starts Fisher settled on Louise Ness, a fine singer who had the same knack for the music but a stronger voice all around. This lineup released the band's formal debut EP, A Selection of Songs, in late 1982, by which time a second singer, Margaret Murphy, had been added for live dates and appearances. The only studio work featuring this version of the group was a cover of Eartha Kitt's "Santa Baby," coming out as a seasonal release in December. Various flickers of attention from the press and other bands came the band's way around that time, while Charles Reilly was added to the lineup on guitar, but nothing ever gelled into a further contract or offer, resulting in the band's quietly wrapping up in 1983. Various French Impressionists veterans went on to further careers in music and the arts -- original singer Colin eventually went into writing while Ness collaborated with Barry Adamson on many of his creative albums -- while Fisher himself returned to music in the late '90s with a series of solo piano albums. The French Impressionists finally appeared on an album solely dedicated to them via the LTM label, which issued a full-length career overview, also called Selection of Songs, in late 2004. ~ Ned Raggett
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