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Paris Jazz Diary 2010

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Travelers who stay in Paris for more than three days without hearing live jazz will miss a vital element of Parisian life. Jazz is as easily available as French wine and crusty baguettes, with performances seven nights a week throughout the City of Light. It's been this way since jazz first entered Paris in the 1920s, when American bands came to entertain the World War I troops and boost the spirit of locals. The enthusiastic reception of America's music convinced many musicians to stay on, and then more came to stay during the Second World War and '50s and '60s. In the 21st century, Paris continues to be a destination for touring and expatriate jazz musicians, as well as its own vigorous European jazz community that values and venerates this nation's gift to the world.
It's easy to find jazz in Paris. Music venues are listed by type in the Pariscope and L'Official Spectacle mini-magazines that are issued every Wednesday, available at newsstand kiosks. There are jam sessions almost nightly, noted in the listings as boeuf.That translates as "beef," the term originating in the 1930s, when French and foreign musicians met after-hours on the roof of the Le Boeuf sur le Toit restaurant to jam; the venue again has live jazz. There also are performances in churches, listed in the concerts pages of the mini-magazines, with tributes to deceased and living jazz luminaries, including frequent jazz manouche—replications of the gypsy-jazz sound of Django Reinhardt
Django Reinhardt
Django Reinhardt
1910 - 1953
guitar
.
During my annual visit, I went to more a dozen boites de nuit (nightclubs) of the 30-some regular venues, hearing high-quality jazz from both touring and resident bands. Clubs are varying sizes and types, from the plush Lionel Hampton
Lionel Hampton
Lionel Hampton
1908 - 2002
vibraphone
Jazz Cub at the Hotel Meridien L'Etoile, open since 1975, where I was thrilled to hear Michel Legrand
Michel Legrand
Michel Legrand
b.1932
piano
a few years ago, to numerous small caves (underground stone cellars). Music starts later than in U.S., usually 9:30 or 10 p.m. Most have an entry charge, some require drink orders, but not all, and now there is no smoking in clubs or cafés, only at sidewalk tables. There also are many piano bars, most with an upright piano, some with baby grands. (Paris jazz musicians believe a venue isn't a real jazz club unless there is a baby grand or an upright piano). Outdoors, the summer Paris Jazz Festival at Parc Floral costs only park admission of 5 euros. This year, the series staged European bands, rather than touring American musicians of the past.
Most of the top jazz names are booked at two clubs. The largest is New Morning, a huge warehouse-style venue with rows of chairs on two levels, but not far from the stage. It's open seating, so people are on line more than an hour before the doors open. One night, I heard alto saxophonist David Sanborn
David Sanborn
David Sanborn
b.1945
saxophone
, organist Joey DeFrancesco
Joey DeFrancesco
Joey DeFrancesco
b.1971
organ, Hammond B3
and drummer Steve Gadd
Steve Gadd
Steve Gadd
b.1945
drums
. The fusion-jazz genius reverted to his influences, performing "The Peeper," in tribute to Hank Crawford
Hank Crawford
Hank Crawford
1934 - 2009
sax, alto
, "Let the Good Times Roll," to celebrate Ray Charles
Ray Charles
Ray Charles
1930 - 2004
piano
, and "Señor Blues," to salute Horace Silver
Horace Silver
Horace Silver
1928 - 2014
piano
. Sanborn also offered a slice of jazz-pop via Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson
1958 - 2009
vocalist
's "The Way You Make Me Feel," followed by a big-band nod of "I've Got News for You," from the Woody Herman
Woody Herman
Woody Herman
1913 - 1987
band/orchestra
repertoire (DeFrancesco delivering the amusing vocal). Another night there, it was vocalist Roberta Gambarini, whose swinging ballads and lithe scatting produced hearty applause from a packed house. Her second set was revved by a surprise sit-in of trumpeter Roy Hargrove
Roy Hargrove
Roy Hargrove
b.1969
trumpet
. Other stars scheduled this season at New Morning included Ron Carter
Ron Carter
Ron Carter
b.1937
bass
, Mike Stern
Mike Stern
Mike Stern
b.1953
guitar
and Randy Brecker
Randy Brecker
Randy Brecker
b.1945
trumpet
, Kurt Elling
Kurt Elling
Kurt Elling
b.1967
vocalist
, Eddie Palmieri
Eddie Palmieri
Eddie Palmieri
b.1936
piano
, James Carter
James Carter
James Carter
b.1969
sax, tenor
, and Hargrove.

Another club for big names is Le Duc des Lombards, a classy longtime venue refurbished a year ago with two viewing levels and a light food menu. This year, I heard one of my longtime favorite French musicians, Philippe Duchemin, whose piano prowess is captivating, his agility and creativity truly amazing. Strongly influenced by Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
1925 - 2007
piano
, he solidly delivers The Great American Songbook, along with memorable original charts such as "Take Bach" and "Ballade en Pologne." He also performs at Chez Papa, the River Café, and at numerous festivals throughout Europe. Another combo at the Duc was led by trombonist Francois Guin, who once played with the Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
Orchestra in Paris, and whose performance was a history lesson of charts from gospel roots to Ellington and on to "Birdland," Weather Report
Weather Report
Weather Report

band/orchestra
-style. "The Duc," as locals call it, recently booked stars such as Phil Woods
Phil Woods
Phil Woods
b.1931
sax, alto
, Kenny Barron
Kenny Barron
Kenny Barron
b.1943
piano
and Charles McPherson
Charles McPherson
Charles McPherson
b.1939
sax, alto
.

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