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 www.myspace.com/bremnerduthie 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 ├ękri 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.