Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Poetry 'n Jazz in Paris Jazz Festival setting

Went to see William Parker at the Black Rebels Festival up at La Villette Jazz Festival in Paris, and I was AMAZED. The band he put together was stunning, AND it included spoken word by Amiri Baraka (who used to be Leroi Jones: Black Power/Beat poet extraordinaire). The premise was "The Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield". Now, I bought a ticket because of Baraka, and it was great to see a the man in person, doing his thing (and though he's looking a bit like a Beat Yoda these days--he's 72 years old--he lived up to his fireball reputation). But the real thrill of the evening was the music. It's rare to see a band that's really on fire. And William Parker's musicians were exactly that. The sax and trumpet players, Darryl Foster and Lewis Barnes respectively, were the smoothest and most impeccably together players I've seen all year, and Dave Burrell on piano managed to sound delicate and insane at the same time (and when he plays solos, the man looks like he's wrestling a rhino). And the drummer, a guy named Hamid Drake, sounded like an entire samba band when he got going. For once poetry, pop, and jazz all mashed up together to create something fantastic. The rather, er, expressionistic photo shows a hat, which is Baraka, and a turquoise wristband, which is William Parker playing bass. All of this in the magical Cabaret Sauvage, which is an old dance "guingette" (a wooden circus tent, essentially) that was dismantled from just outside of Paris and installed by the canal in the Parc de la Villette.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Jazz in Prague

So we went to the newly shiny city of Prague to visit a writer friend who's spending the summer with her director husband in a little wood house in the hills about an hour outside the city. And of course I couldn't pass up the chance to see some of the famous jazz clubs of the city. The dates and the weather ( rainy, rainy) didn't do us any favours, but we did manage to get to one basement club: U Maleho Glena. Where we saw a (mostly) great quintet of young players. I'd like to be able to detail each of them by name, but I've mislaid the program and I was simply deeply unable to make notes on the Czech names as they sped by in the introductions. Special kudos though to the extraordinary bass player who filled up room with his sound... not so special kudo's to the trumpetist who seemed to equate REALLY LOUD with really good: in the tiny cellar he managed to pull a piercing tone out of instrument and went for the 'as loud as possible' high note for each of his solos...

Monday, July 31, 2006

Rhythm and Mohawks in a Jazz Bar in Paris

Never, ever underestimate the power of a great rhythm section to keep you awake in a Paris Jazz Concert after a long long flight...

Saturday me, my nine hour jet-lag and a 32 Celcius Paris spent the evening listening to jazz together at the Duc Des Lombards. Olivier Temime (and his trademark haircut) and 'the Volunteered Slaves' (a reference to Roland Kirk's piece 'volunteered slaves') were playing their
brand of soul jazz/funk/hard bop with Temime leading the group on Sax. My fatigue and the heat (though I love that most Paris Jazz clubs are now non-smoking, sometimes it would be wonderful if they were also air conditioned...) eventually pulled me out of the club in time to catch the last metro, but for most of the two sets I was thrilled by the tight and risk-taking rhythm section of Julien CHARLET (dms), Arnold MOUEZA (perc) and the bassist whose name was nowhere listed and was sped by in every announcment (to him I apologise...) along with the tight playing of Jérôme BARDE (Bardophone) playing on a very pretty seven string self-named guitar of his own making. 

This inner quartet kept up an unrelenting groove that gave the soloists an energetic platform for their work. In their promotional material they refer to influences like Joe Henderson (Black Narcissus, Blue Bossa) and Roland Kirk (the blind american player who specialised in blowing on several instruments at the same time) and while I can see the connections, I found a closer relation to players like Eddie Harris (the player whose jazz albums regularly topped the R & B charts in the 60's). My grumble with the group was that often I found Olivier Timime to be riding on the back of his rhythm section and not the leader I expected to hear. Call me a bitter ex-punk rocker if you like, but I think if you're going to cut your hair into a Mohawk and pick up a sax to lead a jazz group, then you've got to also pick up the attitude of risk and attack that comes along with the territory. I'm not sure if Temime was up to the challenge.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Jobic Le Masson trio at 7 lezard jazz club in Paris

In June, I went twice to see Jobic Le Masson's trio play at 7 Lezards jazz bar in Paris. The first time I dropped by, I actually thought I'd just check them out for a few minutes, then probably head off somewhere else; I'd seen Jobic’s trio briefly, accompanying with a local jazz singer and although I thought they pulled off a nice set, I wasn't totally convinced by the blend of the styles between the trio and the vocalist.

Really all I knew about the group was that Jobic is married a Canadian friend of ours who runs the Red Wheelbarrow, a great English-language bookstore on rue Saint-Paul. But dropping into the 7 Lezards in June, I was much more convinced by the trio on their own: Jobic Le Masson on piano and two Americans in Paris, Peter Giron (bass) and John Betsch (drums), who are playing around with the traditions of free jazz, but in lighthearted and light-fingered way. The 'Ecoute' among the three is intense, as is the sense of space, freedom and encouragement they're sharing with each other. They slipped easily between standards, long free improvisations, and new compositions from Le Masson, and the sense of fun and play between the three gave me the feeling of being included in their personal adventure of discovering sound. Check out extracts at:

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Monday night jazz jam open mic in Paris

Monday is a great night out for Jazz in Paris, the City of Lights: it's open mic Jam night almost everywhere in Paris and that means free entry AND some great young musicians coming out to share their talents with seasoned musicians leading the jams... OK, almost free: the price of a drink at each jazz bar – but 5 euros for a beer in Paris seems a good deal for such an opportunity.

Tonight I checked out three of Paris’s classic jazz bars: Sunset/Sunside (two clubs in one: Sunset downstairs and Sunside upstairs), le Baiser Sale (right next door), and le Caveau des Oubliettes (over on the left bank). Sunset had Michael Cheret on Sax leading the jam, with Pierre Perchaut on guitar, Mathias Alemande on bass, and Philipe Soirat on drums. An assortment of young horn players sat in over the course of the evening, but the one to watch was a young Hungarian, Gabor Bola, on baritone sax who did an extraordinary job on a couple of John Coltrane tunes.

After that I headed over to le Baiser Sale where the percussionist Francois Constantin usually leads a vigourous Latin-based jam session from his set of Congas. However, tonight, although the idea of inviting the African keyboardist Cheik Zidiane Seik seemed like a wonderful idea, somehow things never really started to swing, and the lack of other players in the audience waiting for their chance seemed to back me up, so I headed across the Seine to le Caveau des Oubliettes.

We're in a heat wave right now in Paris and so it was a beautiful, warm stroll at almost midnight crossing the river in front of the beautiful Conciergerie. The Caveau des Oubliettes is a tiny, vaulted basement which hosts jams almost every night of the week, and on Mondays this month they are being hosted by William Chabbey trio (photo above). Chabbey plays a blues and funk based jazz guitar and was backed up by a Hammond and drums. It's the first time I've seen him play and I was impressed by his ability to switch between styles and flirt with blues, rockabilly, funk, rock and roll and still keep improvising with a clear jazz voice. He's clearly popular with the young French players since almost everyone in the audience was clutching a glass of red wine in their hands and a horn propped up beside them as they waited their turn. I caught the last metro home, but they were going on for another set...

Monday, July 03, 2006


I don’t know if Andreel counts as a Paris jazz group, as it's an ever changing line-up of fine Paris musicians from a variety of musical backgrounds and since I'm trying to write about where to see jazz in Paris I figure they're worth including in this list since even for all their French chanson style, they certainly draw on Jazz influences. They interpret the chansons of long and lanky Andre, lead singer & writer. I’d call it 'quirky, jazzy French chanson with ironic, touching or often just charmingly, silly lyrics'. The quartet lit into the songs with enthusiasm and commitment. Elodie Bremaud on trombone was channeling a New Orleans inspired rumble, Helene Vouhé on clarinet swung her way through the arrangements and Simon Drouin on guitar brought a Brazilian lilt to the whole affair. The tiny basement cellar of the Les Dechargeurs was the perfect intimate venue for them - I don’t think it can seat much more than 25 and the arched ceiling makes for a wonderful acoustic, and its a club in Paris where they often hold jazz concerts. Andreel is up next at 29th of July, playing for free at le Divan du Monde. Check out songs at

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Titi Robin's Paris Gypsy Jazz in a Montmartre Park

Paris, gypsy jazz, summer, hot, accordion... it's all good..

Titi Robin played his brand of gypsy jazz in Paris for free in the park behind Sacre Coeur (part of the Musique et Jardins series in the 18th arrondissement). Thierry (Titi) Robin's guitar-playing is inspired by gypsy jazzmen and flamenco music.

He’s combined forces with stunning singer/dancer Gulabi Sapera from Rajasthan, collaborated with Munir Bachir from Irak, and the last time we saw him, at Bouffes du Nord, he was playing a mean oud, accompanied by a team of jaw-droppingly good musicians from all over the map. Today he was keeping things simple for the playground crowd, with great percussive accompaniment of Ze Luis Nascimento and accordion by Francis Varis. Again: it's not a jazz club event you can see every weekend, but it can't be beat for a summertime event in Paris, and the views are extraordinary!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Festival Jazz Musette des Puces - jazz festival in Paris

This is a lovely jazz festival in Paris.  Violinist Didier Lockwood is one of the grand old gents of French jazz, founder of mythic French fusion bandMagma, he also worked with Stephan Grappelli and Dave Brubeck. He's gone on to record with jazz greats and French pop/chanson stars and now wears France's highest award: the Legion d'Honneur. His current venture is transmitting his own knowledge to another generation with Centre Musique de Didier Lockwood, a school of improvisation for strings.Today's concert is not a jazz club in Paris you can go to every night, instead it was in the fabulous setting of Les Puces de Clignancourt: the largest flea market in the world (where you can pick up everything from an Ancienne Regime fireplace, ripped out of a Parisian mansion, to an outrageous set of stretch flare pants from 1965. Instead of a Paris jazz club, a huge temporary stage was set up for Didier, along with a series of his friends and pupils, so jazz on all manner of string instruments was the focus for the day.Honestly, I can't say I'm a massive fan of Lockwood's sound -not to say that he's not a brilliant player, but there's just a little too much 'smoothness' happening for me - it's a fusion sound that perhaps is mellowing a bit too much. However, the sound fit well with the hot summer afternoon, and it echoed wonderfully across the market stands and cafe terraces of Les Puces. I hope they make it an annual event, 'cause I'd go back: and if it's summertime and you're visiting the city and you want to see some great music then I'd recommend it.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Jazz Links around the World - a comprehensive guide to what's on in Poland in the live and improvised music scene

A Passion For Jazz - History of Jazz music, styles and musicians featuring photo gallery, timeline, festivals, webcasts, piano & guitar chords, scales and online lessons - a guide (with main pages in German but a partial translation in English) of what's on across Germany.

jazz-da-baltics - a very nice little blog about Jazz on the Eastern side of Europe.
- all in German but very detailed listings of what's on, especially in Heidelberg and Mannheim regions.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Travel Links to Paris and Europe - a comprehensive traveler annotated guide to making your way across Europe

Paris Hotels - Great choice of boutique hotels with direct booking