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.