Monday, August 20, 2007

Gone Fishin

I'll be out of town for August and into the first week of September, so I won't be updating the What's On page for a while... but the club listings are the same and you'll find phone numbers to confirm opening hours and websites. I hope you have a great summer holiday in the City of Lights and if you're here at the end of August don't forget to check out the La Villette Jazz Festival... an amazing line up at an amazing park on the edge of the city...

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Flea fest - Jazz Festival in Paris at Les Puces de Clignancourt

now, i live near the St-Ouen flea market, so i'm biased, but i do think the Festival Jazz-musette des Puces in Paris is one of the niftiest little festivals of June, and the Picolo (above David Enhco of Enhco&Co, playing at the Picolo this afternoon) is one of my favourite dives. the Fest is very recent (first shows were in 2004) but it has old everything in the flea market.

when the flea market really got going in the 1880s, there were already little dives in the neighborhood that served wine & welcomed musicians like Django Reinhardt. but it was Malik Harullak (for whom this part of the market is named) who bought the Picolo & made it what it is today--he was an Albanian who made the place a favourite for local gypsy musicians. i first dropped by the Picolo over a decade ago, on the advice of a gypsy leather-maker who was working in the Malik of the best bits of advice i've ever had, because unless you know about it, you might just pass it by.

but violinist Didier Lockwood and guitarist Serge Malik--who met playing 'round here back in 70s--decided that a Festival would make people notice the great "manouche" (gypsy) jazz history here. yesterday, they inaugurated "Place Django Reinhardt" right in the middle of the Puces, not far from the three old bars (the Picolo, the Chope des Rosiers, & Chez Louisette) that are still here, despite the odds. And so is Serge's 82-year-old mother, who still lives across the street from the Picolo and remembers listening to Django play.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Faites de la jazz musique! 'Fetes de la Musique' in Paris - a music festival around the city

Longest day of the year and no excuse to stay home...400 cities across the globe are celebrating the 26th annual FETE DE LA MUSIQUE this year. Paris has a events on pretty well every street corner; the spontaneous serendipity of wandering through the city has brought me wonderful surprises in past years--a brass quintet playing valiantly through pouring rain last year on rue de Sevigny, a solo bassist in the courtyard of the Cour Carre in the Louvre...but this year, with the weather uncertain, you might be better off in one of the classics (the Baiser Sale or the Sunside downtown, or the Dynamo out in Pantin) because tonight, pretty well everything is free & the clubs tend to book reliable crowd-pleasers on this night of all nights. And hey, stay out late...the metro runs all night.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Finished my CD of Jazz Standards - 'The Sky Was Blue', song from Sinatra to The Talking Heads

I'm pleased and delighted to say that I stumbled out of the Bopcity studios last night in Paris (after a long day of watching a sound engineer mix tracks - odd how that can be sooo tiring) with the first mastered tracks from my new album 'The Sky Was Blue'. It's an album of standards with a jazz quartet, but it ain't necessarily a jazz standards album.... there's some crooner stuff, there's some caramelized, tangy pop, there's the saddest new-wave song ever written and there's a funk version of a joni mitchell tune. (trying to cover all the demographics....)

And, in this age of instant access and globalization I walked out of the studio last night - check them out at .

all the best
p.s. for those in Paris, I'll be doing them in concert with the quartet at the 7 Lezards jazz bar, 10 rue de Rosiers on the 26th of June at 21h.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

in the dark before the Parc Floral Jazz Festival in Paris

Couldn't have asked for better weekend weather to kick off the Paris Jazz Fest out in the Parc Florale...and yet I spent part of Sunday afternoon inside, to hear EOL trio play at the Dans Le Noir restaurant near the Pompidou Center.

First...the restaurant is unusual in that it is entirely dark (the wait staff is blind) and you really can't see the hand in front of your face once you're inside. Fortunately there was no food, just drinks during the gig...just as well, though it's difficult to even clap after a particularly good solo when you can't see where you've just put down your beer. Second...EOL rocked, managing to sweep from thoughtful Eddie Harris-type compositions to quirky covers of Eurythmics, Bjork...and Wayne Shorter. I'd heard the band a few weeks ago at Showcase for the finale of the St-Germain festival, but as so often happens for an opening act, the sound wasn't all it should be. That was totally solved on Sunday--the mix was great, quite surreal to listen to live music in the complete blackness, but overall a successful experiment. Must have been tricky getting the band (made up of three brothers) used to playing in the dark, with no visual cues. Denis Girard (keyboards) says they practised playing with airline sleeping masks over their eyes (I wish I had a photo of that!) Stay tuned for a CD from EOL trio this winter...

Saturday, June 02, 2007

After Hours Eats in Paris.. late night or 24 hour restaurants in Paris for after the jazz concert

So there you are, wandering out of a smoky (or thankfully soon to not be smoky bar with the new Paris clean air regs coming in soon) jazz bar in Pars and you're all wired up from the great music and you want.... something to eat! And you DON'T want to be eating from those late night snack places that sell deep-fried everything and just-unfrozen everything else. But the problem is Paris isn't really a late, late night town - a lot of restaurants and snack places close their shutters by 11pm.

So here's a guide to what's out there after hours - a list of places in Paris that will provide you with more than just greasy meat. Some of them are high end, some of them are more on the lower and 'atmospheric' side of things...
Le Boeuf sur le Toit: Near the Champs Elysees, this is best late since there's a discount on orders of food that they can't save for the next day (like seafood or shellfish). It is part of the larger Flo chain of restaurants and is full and bustling long into the night.

The Bistrot Beaubourg
: A bistro with classic French dishes at not bad prices; if you're in the mood for a hearty steak frites, or a magret du canard this is the place.
Chez Andre: You can grab a table at this ancient French bistro until midnight, and then you can linger till much later. Chez Andre was founded in 1930 and has become a neighborhood institution with its Art Nouveau interior and traditional French menu.
La Cloche d'Or: This is a cafe/resto where theatre and music types hang out till the closing hour at 4am. Again, a menu of French classics where you can linger over a plate of food and bottle of wine, or just grab a tiny nibble and a glass or two.
Coude de Fou: Close to the main jazz scene in the Marais this crowded wine bar stays up till 2 am and doles out plates of terrine de canard, beef cheek, and other specialities...
Le Petit Pont: This little place happily serves up their full menu till 3 a.m. It's not far from Notre Dame so it is also a stroll away from most of the jazz clubs.
Pied de Cochon: What can you say about this 60-year-old institution? Right near some seriously awful chain & theme restaurants, this glittering resto has kept its menu true to its old market roots...allowing you to chow down on a Pig's foot at any hour of the night (Maybe you'll be inspired by that Bessie Smith song: 'gimme a pig's foot and a bottle a beer'.) However, for those of us who have a more delicate stomach at such a sensitive hour in the morning they also offer onion soup and other classics.
Pizza Sant'Antonio: if you're used to the speciality pizzas of North America then you're probably in for a big disappointment with any French pizza parlor. I'm not sure where the French came up with the idea to throw a huge dollop of Creme Fraiche and a half-fried egg on top of a pizza, but it's never really won over my palate. And hell, i know you're not in Paris to eat bad Italian food....however, still sometimes pizza is the ultimate cheap snack. Pizza Sant'Antonio serves huge pizzas and salads in a lively late-night scene that makes the uneven product forgivable.
Pub Saint Germain: It's late, you're hungry so go over to the dark side: British Pub Food! The pub Saint Germain is open 24 hours and the beer selection is immense and in fact (it is in St. Germain after all) the pub fare is more respectable than other British and Irish bars.
and finally: across from Gare du Nord (and indeed near most of the large railway stations) there are several wonderful restaurants: sometimes seedy, sometimes historic, sometimes very 'atmospheric' at three in the morning...

Out of the studio and back to the real world...

Well, that was....great! Three long days of work with the musicians in the studio. They were amazing: creative, hard working, inventive... they rocked! (ok...sometimes they rocked too much) I'm completely wiped. We got thirteen tracks down and now I have a week to work with the music and then in a week I'll go back and do the vocal retakes. Remi Amblard on piano and synth, Theirry Tardieu on percussion, Tommaso Montangani on Bass and Benoit Gil on guitar. And me, the singer, although really the last three days were about getting the musical tracks down...the word for what I was doing 'voix temoin' - the witness voice. I like the term...and to be honest by the last takes on friday afternoon that really, really, really was what I was doing. After three days of organizing, motivating, heading off confrontations, trying to pull out the best ideas and sidetrack the less good, I was on my last legs. I kept thinking 'Just keep singing something and get these beautiful tracks down on tape, and you come back and do it all again after a week of sleep". The Magic of electronic recording!

We did most of the tracks in the first two days and the last day was given over to a lot of retakes and drop-ins at places where the take as a whole was good but one person had screwed up or didn't like their work. Max - the engineer who runs Bopcity- would wind the track back, mute that particular instrument and then the player would just overdub what he'd done before. All the takes happened pretty quickly, there was only one piece that we couldn't get right and had to do about seven takes. I think some of the best ones happened with two or three takes. For the version of version of Heaven we did, we suddenly decided to throw away the arrangement from the rehearsal hall and do something completely different. The new version was put together in fifteen minutes and then we did three takes and I think it's kind of beautiful...

What surprised me was how much like theatre direction it was. I guess that's 'cause I'm producer and singer. All the issues of dealing with personalities, (i.e. -one person works best after about ten cups of coffee and another wants to get straight to work, or somebody else has a great idea they love and somebody thinks that idea is crap and a discussion starts which could well take up half the morning etc etc) and motivating people, scheduling, dealing with problems fell onto my shoulders as well. It was great fun to be part of this process but I'll also be glad to be in the studio alone next week with just the music and my voice.

The final mixes should be done by the 15th of June... I'll put them up on myspace then, meanwhile I might throw a few of the rehearsal takes up there.

Friday, June 01, 2007

LES ALLUMES du JAZZ, Festival in Paris

LES ALLUMES DU JAZZ is an association of 44 small jazz labels from across France--it's also a newspaper, packed with reviews, listings of new albums, editorial comment on the state of jazz, music,'s a bit of a rant, in a good way. And this past Tuesday, they were celebrating the launch of issue #19 (that's Sylvie Fontaine's cover of the new issue there), with a great evening at Le Triton. now, i've been hearing good things about les Tritons for ages but like a lot of people in Paris, i'm lazy, it takes a special event to lure me out to the suburbs...and Tuesday's "LES ALLUMES DU SOLO" was exactly that kind of event.

first of all: now I know that Le Triton is barely in the suburbs, it's a 2-minute walk from metro Mairie des Lilas & it couldn't be easier to get to. second, the cafe/restaurant area is fantastic...i wish i'd arrived a few hours earlier, to hang out on the terrasse and chat with different i'll be going back.

for Tuesday's ALLUMES, nine musicians, each with a new album out, were allotted a 15 -to-20 minute solo (most stuck around for a jam together at the end)...musically all over the map, including Michele Buirette's accordion chanson, chilled DJ Frank Vigroux (yes, the guitarist, in different mode), and Samson Schmitt's manouche guitar. But for me, the Allumes labels are most interesting when they take risks, like Christophe Rocher--with his very spiritual & lovely bass clarinet solo--and like the unstoppable improvisations of Edward Perraud. i love percussionists who can share the energy it takes to play drums, who can make us hear what they hear--his solo "batterie" was a real high point, that line where jazz, contemporary experimentation, and sheer fun all mash together to open up your ears and your head.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Two weeks till I record my jazz CD in Paris

Two weeks before I go into the studio in Paris to record this jazz CD of standards, and I’m wrestling with keys and tempos and arrangements.  I have a name - 'The Sky Was Blue' and the song list is still adapting as we find out what players have an affinity for… in principle the songs are
1. Angel Eyes
2. Lover Come Back to Me
3. Again
4. Whisper Not
5. Love me or Leave Me
6. Court and Spark
7. Chelsea Hotel
8. Secret Heart
9. Sweethearts on Parade
10. Some of these Days
11. Heaven
12. Pale Blue Eyes
The songs are splitting themselves up into trio and solo and duo as I hear some are over arranged or some are missing a texture or timbre. It’s a set of songs that I love… I’m not sure if they fit the normal set of ‘standards’ but this last year has been about: thinking about what a makes a standard. At the end of the year I’m not sure if I’m that much farther ahead in figuring that one out. I’m not sure that we’re going to be able to get all these done in the studio… the time always races by when you have to set up mics and deal with layers of technology. I’m spending hours in my studio trying out vocal approaches to each song... don't know whether it's best to go safe and be a crooner or try out the vocal stuff that I've been doing for all the contemporary and performance work that I've done... probably finally be a spur of the moment choice when I hear how the tracks get laid down...
demos are still up at Its nice to think that soon I can replace them with the 'real thing'

electro-jazz in Paris at the St. Germain des Pres Jazz Festival

the Saint-Germain-des-Pres Paris jazz festival wrapped up with a Nuit Electro-Jazz...and it was a sweaty night under the Pont Alexandre III. i got there late (because i never expect a jazz concert to start on time...i know, i know, i should get places earlier) and managed to catch the last few minutes of EOL trio (three brothers, more on them soon because they'll be playing at the restaurant Dans Le Noir, a neat idea.)
after a quick break (enough time to get myself a gin & tonic), next up: Aronas...this time Aron Ottignon had a real piano (see April entry) and killer percussion. Aron's from New Zealand, and the band includes South Pacific drums. He's a fine pianist: first won New Zealand's award for new jazz talent, then moved over the larger continent and won their award for young jazz talent. (forgive the photo failure...not sure why the powers-that-be decided to put the press section on the side of the space, so the only good sightline was right on the edge of the stairs. i tried fighting my way through the central crowd, but it was waaaaayyy too hot...) Aronas seemed like some kind of witches brew of funk, jazz, free jazz and straight out punk rock, and the crowd loved it. It was great to see such a huge crowd coming out for a jazz event.

the last part of the evening was Beat Assailant--cheerful jazzy hiphop: the lead is from Miami but is now hunkering down in Paris, where he's acquired a fab brass section. good way to wrap up the soiree, and the festival.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Swan Bar and Jazz Cafe, Paris

I'm going to put up some mini-portraits of the various jazz venues in Paris. I'd like to give you a better idea of the various places you're going to end up: they're all so different and depending on what you're in the mood for sometimes a smoky cellar is perfect and sometimes a non-smoking cocktail lounge is even perfecter.....

so, the first portrait is of the lovely Swan Bar, and how could a portrait of the Swan be complete without a portrait of the lovely Isla. With her trademark star on her cheek and an irrepressible sense of humour she commands the impressive cocktail bar.

The Swan's a nice venue since it sits in the south of Paris in the historic Montparnasse district. A lot of visitors to the city end up in this neighbourhood and there are excellent restaurants and the old 'american' bars from the 20's and 30's, like The Select, or Le Dome, are just down the boulevard. The Swan's probably a five to ten minute walk up from the Montparnasse metro or a 30 second walk from the Port Royal RER exit and you'll find a brightly lit lounge dotted with tiny tables on two levels and a shiny cocktail bar, and sometimes an art show going on downstairs.

They put on a varied set of musicians, ranging from vocal jams on Wednesday nights for those aspiring singers who want to get up and try their chops with a couple of local musicians (bring three copies of your music!) to a variety of bands and singers. I know they've had some problem with sound complaints so their trios and band tend to avoid loud drummers, but they pull in some fine trios anyway. If you're already up in Montparnasse then its the perfect place to end your evening with a brightly colored drink and some great music.

Friday, May 11, 2007

New Jazz cafe venue in the 18th arrondisement in Paris

.A new jazz cafe in Paris.....and in my 'hood! after an extensive period of transition (renovations here can last for years) the downstairs lounge of Chez Ginette is finally open. And it is gorgeous! a Hernando's Hideaway straight out of The Pyjama Game, with vintage suitcases over the piano, a great upstairs balcony for leaning & listening, and a couldn't-be-easier location right upstairs from the Lamark-Caulincourt metro station. the photo really doesn't do it justice. now if they can just keep booking decent bands, I have a new local hangout.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Drums at La Fenetre jazz venue in Paris

La Fenetre is a great addition to the jazz venues in Paris. It's a little black box set in a wonderful old industrial courtyard. But, in contrast to many other black box theatres, they've spent time and energy on converting it acoustically so the music actually sound good (and not like you're simply sitting inside a large shoebox with a band at one end). It's a bit off the beaten path east of Bastille, but it's worth the wander. And a walk up Rue du Charonne with its trendy cafes and clothing stores and design emporiums is never a bad thing for window shopping and people watching.

I saw the Drum Trio Pacatom. There was enough percussion instruments on stage to provide the rhythm section for five bands! Perhaps with La Fenetre's placement in an industrial building they are presenting the kind of noisy bands that a lot of other venues are having to restrict. However this night didn't really seem to fly: perhaps the trio just had too many instruments on stage. They pulled off a fun set and I liked their intentions, but they seemed almost lost in their instruments, and the trio really only got going when they settled into a fairly standard rock/funk groove and let fly. In the quieter passages they didn't seem to be exploring the range of sounds that all those instruments could produce and I found myself rather bored. Once, at a drum festival, I had the pleasure of watching an ancient Indian drummer captivate a hall of 3000 people for almost 20 minutes with nothing more than a tambourine. I remember finding myself on the edge of my seat listening to him play. Perhaps sometimes it is best to keep things to a minimum.

Monday, May 07, 2007

free voices jazz in Paris

The nomadic heart of LA VOIX EST LIBRE jazz festival in Paris was alive and pounding on Saturday night...first night of the festival, the Bouffes was crammed-full. What I like about this fest is the risk-taking--which doesn't always work, but isn't stepping out on that ledge the soul of jazz? The first part of the night featured Reunion singer Nathalie Natiembe riffing with American sax player David Murray and French drummer Denis Charolles. And i found Natiembe a bit out of her element when the two free jazz types got going --Murray playing from the guts and Charolles maniacal, playing percussion with rocks & hand tools.

After a brief break, Titi Robin walked out with no warning, no fanfare...just his trademark delicate lute-playing as we crowded quietly back into our seats. His guitar and lute were a curiously successful meld with Danyel Waro's ecstatic Maloya songs. Their collaboration was initially a project with Africolor, and by the end of Saturday night, even the usually sedate Parisian crowd was up & dancing.

Waro's a kind of figurehead of Reunion music. He went to jail back in the 70s for refusing to do his French military service (and in jail wrote a memoir Romans ékri dans la zol en Frans) and he sings entirely in creole Maloya--a language that was forbidden by the French colonists. Waro was backed by two spectacular Reunion drummers and singers, Vincent Phileas and Loran Dalo--check out our brief video (Francis Varis on accordeon, Pascal Stalin on electric bass) for a tiny taste of the night...

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Brazilian food and Jazz in Paris

Run, don't walk to this Brazilian restaurant in Paris for the food and the jazz. But wait, this seems like some kind of nightmare! I've finally found the best South American food I've tasted in Paris, plus a fabulous jazz guitarist whose standards calm a whole restaurant of noisy eaters into devoted attention. And even better: they serve what are possibly also the best cocktails in Paris. And they do all this with a smile on their faces --And it's their last night!!

No! It's going to be allright: I can calm down. A quick conversation with the waitress reassured me. In fact it's only their last night in this location. They'll be opening up near Gare de L'Est for the summer in a larger premises with a small stage for the musician: Le Mano Bueno brazilian restaurant. They couldn't give me their new address yet, but this will be worth a google in the summer if you're looking for a fabulous evening. Benoit Gil plays there every Saturday and he tucked himself in behind the bar and played wonderful standards with a South American musician (whose name I couldn't catch) but who I chatted with about his instrument of the night. He's actually a classically trained pianist who fled military dictatorship and tonight was playing an 110- year-old Cornet de Poche (just think about whose hands that might have passed through). They were a joy to watch & hear. Benoit has an impeccable light touch on the guitar and sings his way through standards with an adorable French accent.

So, you can, in fact, walk to this wonderful corner of Brazil in Paris and you'll get there in time for their opening sometime early this summer..

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Unexpected Pleasures of Jazz in Paris

I have to admit my heart dropped a little bit when I walked downstairs in the wonderful little jazz club in the Marais, the 7 Lezards and saw three people watching a lute and oboe duet play jazz. I had walked by late and realized there was probably the chance of catching a last set and the bartender sold me a ticket at half price and told me that if they finished in the next ten minutes he'd refund it.

So I walked downstairs in total ignorance of what and who was playing. But, I admit, it was late and I was hoping for something high energy to get me up and listening. However that is the joy of jazz; at its best you never know what you're going to get and you never know what form it's going to come in. The two players, Claude Barthelemy : Guitar & Oud and Jean-Luc Fillon : Oboe, were simply wonderful. I felt sorry for the uncountable numbers of people who weren't in that tiny little cellar to witness the pleasure that these two were taking from the music and their own exchange. Jean-Luc Fillon says "I want to reveal in Jazz and improvised music the richness, authenticity and lyricism of the oboe, an instrument hitherto confined to the tradition of written music". I was delighted to be part of his audience. Check out the video below for a tiny slice of the evening.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Red Velvet Jazz Festival in St. Germain des Pres

Spent Tuesday night in the cellar of the normally 'members only' Castel club for the launch of the annual FESTIVAL JAZZ A SAINT-GERMAIN-DES-PRES (see our listings page for links and details). It was surreal scene of velvet wallpaper, vaulted ceilings and an open bar serving gin & tonics with miniature macaroons...not sure what all the cookies had to do with jazz but eventually there was a mini-concert by New Zealand pianist Aron Ottignon (who'll be playing the Fest) and a speech by Frédéric Charbaut, the director of the festival.

Congrats to Aron for pulling off an impressive little gig in spite of fighting a terrible thrashed electric piano--with the sound pumped through the house disco system. Aron's playing has been described as 'testosterone fuelled Rachmaninov-goes-jazz that will take your breath away'--you can decide for yourself at the Showcase (the bar under Pont Alexandre III) on May 17th.

What's exciting about the St-Germain Fest is its great mix of contemporary & traditional artists, including new talent showcases, daytime events (like the innovative Jazz Bus) AND a slew of free shows. Looking forward to spending some time in Saint-Germain starting next week...

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Blue Skies

The studio is booked, the rehearsals are on track, the arrangements are down on paper, some demos are up on My Space--which means I'm up & running for the recording at the end of May. At there are five rough mixes from the album (tentatively named The Sky Was Blue). I'll be re-recording them at Bopcity studios with Remi Amblard on piano and rhodes, Tomasso Montagnani on electric and standup bass, Benoit Gil on guitar and Thierry Tardieu on drums and percussion.

And you can bet there will be one hell of a party in mid-June when we're done recording!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Manda Djinn, jazz and gospel singer at the Swan Bar in Paris

Manda Djinn is a force of nature.
She sings a high energy vocal jazz styled with gospel and rhythm and blues, and boy, she puts on a show! There's a lot of singers who are so deep in their vocal technique they seem absent physically from the stage, but Manda right there... She covers all the territory... her technique is fabulous: she knows the style she wants, she can pull of the interpretation... and she's a 'showman', in the best sense of the term: she connects with the audience and makes them feel and understand the text and the meaning of each song, while looking like she's having the best time in the world doing it. She used to be a professional dancer and that sense of rhythm and comfort on stage comes through in her music and physical presence. I've spoken with her a little bit about her performing history and sometime's it seems like she's simply sung or performed with everyone, everywhere..

For the past years she's had an active career in Gospel music in Europe, and around the world (She told me she's heading off to Japan for a Gospel tour in the next few days) but now she's going back to the standards: and with a fine couple of musicians: Claude Carrière on piano and Stephane Boutrit on double-bass. Manda has a regular monthly gig at the Swan Bar. check out our What's On Now page for upcoming info...

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Perfect Day in Paris - great food, great architecture, great jazz

Someone asked me last night what would be the perfect day in Paris. impossible question, there are so many perfect days in Paris--whether you're walking around with a dime in your pocket or you have a platinum American Express card. (As a musician I admit that I fall somewhere in the lower end of that range.) My nights out normally involve live music so I thought I'd try and take the challenge and put together what I think is an amazing day and evening out in the city.

So, the perfect day: well, for a start, it's Sunday: because that's the greatest day in Paris--people hit the streets at 2pm after a lazy morning in bed and the cafes are packed all afternoon with calm, happy and good-looking (or at least very relaxed) Parisians. And on this lazy Sunday we have to start at Bastille because we need to get a couple of things accomplished. First there's a coffee at the Cafe Industrie to get us going. We can sit among the palms and the paintings of Africa and Indochina (with some extremely politically incorrect images of dusky bathing beauties among them) and people-watch through the windows. Then, fired up by the caffeine we'll gather our strength and go down to the Bastille Market to buy the fixings for a picnic later in the day.

Bastille Market is one of the best of the innumerable daily markets around the city. It takes place over the covered canal that comes down into the Seine from the North of the city. There's almost always a Dixieland band playing or a jazz trio busking with some Django-inspired gypsy jazz. Perhaps we could pick up some wine from an independent vineyard, maybe a roast chicken, some bread and tomatoes and for dessert: an apricot tart. With that stored in our backpacks we could head up the canal and begin to prowl our way through the afternoon.

Now we could head for the centre of the city, join the tourists and perhaps get a bit footsore from walking up the Eiffel Tower, but if I'm the guide, we'll take an alternative angle and head up to the multicultural district of Belleville. After wandering through the artist studios that fill up every nook and corner of the neighbourhood we'd share the food and the bottle of wine in the sun sitting in the pretty modern park that tumbles down the hill into the winding streets of Paris's Chinatown. We'd be surrounded by like-minded people and families with kids running through the fountains of the stream that runs through the middle of the garden. And at the square at the top with the incredible view over the city we might find another jazz band, or even a string quartet.

Then, when the sun got a bit too much, in the late afternoon, and when we need a pick-me-up, I'd head downhill and downtown for the Marais, the old Jewish district. It's filled with narrow shady streets and there are cafes with terrasses on every corner. As we head through the trendy Oberkampf strip we might find Sunday afternoon concert at the Cithea. They have a pretty eclectic programming that includes everything from House Music to traditional Jazz. We have a while to make up our minds about the evening: music and events and clubs don't normally get started till late and continue on until the wee hours, so there's no hurry. In fact, even after years in this city I still automatically arrive 'on time' for events and realize that I'm going to have to kill a couple of hours waiting for everyone else in Paris to get there. So, I'll head for my favourite corner in the city and my favourite terrace at the corner of Impasse du Tresor and Vieille du Temple and we can chat away the hours till the early evening. And now we have to make a choice! Do we catch an early set at the 7 lezards cafe, which is only a stones throw away...or do we grab a table on the terrace of Les Philosophes Cafe and spend a few more hours over a meal and another bottle of wine, before catching one of the late sets in the bars nearby... hmmmm. That's a tough one. I think we'd have to send a scout round the corner to find out what's playing and give us the thumbs up or down before we can make that choice. So... let's say that tonight the early show doesn't tempt us enough to spend the first part of the evening in a jazz cellar bar then we'll take over a table on the corner and slowly make our way through the three or four courses that we need after our stressful day. I'd definitely finish with a tiny glass of Vieille Prune alcohol...which sort of tastes like an orchard exploding on the back of your tongue (and is supposed to aid digestion: but I don't know anyone who actually drinks it for that reason).

Finally I'd head off for the jazz strip on rue des des Lombards. In a three-block space you've got four classic jazz clubs: Duc Des Lombards, the Sunset, the Sunside and La Baiser Sale. All of them are going to have a late night show starting between 9 and 10pm, we know we can catch something contemporary, something traditional, a launch of a new CD, perhaps a jam of local and visiting musicians or a vocalist trying out a set of standards. Personally I head first for the Duc des Lombards: mostly because I like the ambiance in the tiny little club...classy & quirky at the same time with fine musicians.

And as a final perk for a perfect Sunday: when we head out of the club at 1am and find that the Metro has ground to a halt, we'll have no problem either grabbing a taxi home or walking back to our place through the calm streets unfazed by the madness of the Saturday night crowds...

there it is: if anyone feels like inviting me along then let me know here...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Remi and the Jets

So I go for a first rehearsal with Remi, the pianist who'll be playing for me on the recording, and we go through the songs and then get to chatting about some songs he's working on. We head into his tiny studio and he fires up his computer to show me what he's working on right now. Now this is the bit where I feel like I'm someone who was expecting to take a drive in a comfortable but rather predictable Toyota, (I mean I've been around home studios before) however, when I climb into the Toyota I actually find that I'm sitting in the cockpit of an F1 fighter jet and we're doing loop the loops over the Grand Canyon. Remi has enough technology packed into this tiny little box that he could compete with Sony! So we spend an hour or so going through all the ways that one mic in his tiny (and I mean tiny) studio can be used to record some really beautiful music and then play with it after.

For the album I'm not that interested in capturing a 'live quartet' sound in the studio. I've always been in love with more produced sounds. One of my favourite pop albums of 2006 was Ry Cooder's Chavez Ravine: and I think every single instrument on there had been tweaked and produced. Since working with Brian Eno back in the 80's I've been an admirer of what a producer can do with a record. And frankly, I don't think a straight album is that marketable. Another singer, with another jazz quartet... my disc will languish in the 'slush pile' of Agents and Festival's around the world.....

So, the outcome of this technological revelation is that I wanted a producer for the disc and Remi has the goods and wants to do it, so he'll be on the editing, mixing, playing and tweaking side of things. However, because I head back to Canada in July and we need several weeks in the studio to make it work I'm going to have to move the recording up from the middle of June to the end of May!! Which leaves four weeks to work with the musicians and finish the arrangements.... Ayieee! May should be a fun month!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Julien Lallier Quartet at 7 Lezards Jazz Club in Paris

A cool Paris basement in the summer heat... Julien Lallier was at the 7 Lezards Jazz Bar in Paris on Monday night to play through the compositions on his latest album, "Tarifa", for an intimate, appreciative crowd. "Tarifa" was inspired by a trip to Spain (most of the pieces are names of Spanish towns, so you can retrace his route if you feel like a bit of geography). 

The album has a depth that's rare in a first album: Lallier's influences include Keith Jarret and Miles Davis and their sound can be heard lovingly echoed in the depths of Lallier's compositions. Working with a quartet of friends whose intimacy comes through on the album and in concert, Lallier has the typical light touch of contemporary French keyboardists, with unusual depth to the sound. The quartet --Benjamin Body on bass, Jeff Baud on trumpet, and Julie Saury on drums-- was solid, the drummer putting out the most energy in the two sets [the usual Quartet line-up features Donald Kontomanou on drums, but Saury more than held her own.] Julien tells me that other priorities came up this year to keep him off the festival circuit, but if you have a chance to see him in Paris or at one of the gigs listed on his website you won't be dissapointed by your evening. Lallier's playing has a virtuoso's touch in both the composition and the playing and that's a rare thing these days.
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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Copywrite Enfringement Anyone

Couldn't resist putting up this rather alternative version of Mickey Mouse that we saw at the contemporary arts museum Palais de Tokyo last night. I'm not sure how they get away with using the big eared one in such an 'excited' pose without Disney's lawyers come down on them like a ton of bricks. However for 2000 euros you can take one of these adorable mice back home with you! We sat out in the crazy 1920's courtyard cafe afterward and discussed possibilities...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

My favourite jazz Bassist in Paris

Met with Tommasso Montagnani, the extraordinary bassist I played with last year to talk about recording my  my new jazz album in Paris. We had a coffee near his place in Montmartre, near Chateau Rouge Metro

(where they have cleaned up the street and kicked most of the junkies away!... I had to wait for him for 20 minutes and it makes it a lot nicer on the corner!)

He's a bassist and ethnomusicologist... which maybe explains some of his eclectic style... BUT he is going to Brazil to study the music of the Amazon Indians for six months and he leaves on the 6th of June and my dates for the recording are tentatively the 10th to the 14th! I have to talk to three other musicians still, since everybody left town for the Easter Vacations... so either I put it at the end of May for Tommasso, which gives me only four weeks to rehearse, or I find someone new (it's hard to find a good bassist!!) and put it even later in June to give us more time. The arrangements aren't easy, so it's going to take us a bit of work to get them together... I'll know more in a week when all the French musicians come back from Easter with the family....

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Rock Stars under the Bridge and some very tight dresses at Le Tango in Paris

Tonight I'll be seeing Benoit Gil play at the Mano Bueno, but last night was a non-jazz evening. We started off at the Rock Star Karaoke at the new hot club that has been built into the walls of the Quai under the bridge Alexandre III.... you know the bridge, it's in every tourist photo of the city!

I was lucky enough to be in the company of Lisa Pasold, Heather Stimmler and Nicole

We were treated to a club that looked like it had been decked out by Saturday Night Fever's set decorator... and even better it had foosball and a view of the Eiffel Tower.

And for the Kararock there was a series of hilarious cameo's by would-be rock stars.

The band was great and doing their best to make everyone look good. It's all organized by a promoter who appears throughout the evening in various disguises. As we were leaving he appeared in the complete white top hat Alice Cooper outfit and sprayed the audience with fake blood. His site is sort of unnavigable on myspace... but you can try and find his upcoming events at . Normally this happens on a Sunday evening and often the cream of french rock musicians turn up to jam along with the band towards the end of the evening..

after that a quick and spectacular taxi ride along the quais past the Gare D'Orsay took us to Le Tango at Art et Metiers. It's a venerable institution in Paris's gay lifestyle.

Saturday nights are open to all and for 7 euros you can enjoy the 1940's ambience, a truly amazing drag show

and music that ranges from waltzes to pumping disco to spontaneous 'Madisons' where the entire dance floor suddenly divides up and does a line dance to 50's french pop music. We had stumbled in on Eurovision night and so we were treated to a medley of every fabulously awful winner in the last 20 years....