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Paris Jazz Diary Summer 2007

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I consult the weekly 'Pariscope' magazine to plot future nights at 30-some jazz venues.
Paris Jazz Diary 2007
PARIS, France

Proof that jazz is an international language was evident all summer in the cosmopolitan city of Paris, where people of all nationalities and ages come together to perform and/or listen. The past 11 summers that I've spent here and in other parts of Europe have convinced me that Europeans love "America's musical gift to the world.

But it's pricier over here than in the States. There are cover charges (7 to 22 euros, $9.50-$30) even for local bands, but the clubs were full every night I was out and about and, despite an unusually cool, cloudy and rainy summer, even for the outdoor concerts. Jazz is pervasive in Paris, and not just in clubs or concert halls, but also in parks, Metro (subway) stations, on the trains and street corners—including even a pianist who schlepped his instrument on a wheeled platform.

All summer, there were free weekend afternoon jazz concerts in the beautiful Parc Floral in the Bois Vincennes, admission 5 euros ($7) into the park. Everyone brings picnic supplies, which I call a BYOB (Bring Your Own Baguette, Blanket and Bottle). With those items in my backpack, I arrived to enjoy two solid hours of the extraordinary Wynton Marsalis Quintet. I was part of an audience of thousands perched on sloping hillsides, under shady trees and near ponds, as well as occupying 400 seats under the covered outdoor stage. In addition, there was an unusual exhibition of cutout metal art of portraits of jazz figures by a French artist in the visitor's center. Parisians truly value and venerate "Our Music —another reason I like to come here. And they like Americans, contrary to what you may have heard or read—they just don't like our politics. Previous concerts in this spacious big-city oasis (think Central Park in New York City) featured various top European musicians plus U.S.-based Geri Allen, Joe Sample and Randy Crawford, Chucho Valdez, Dave Holland, Philip Catherine and big bands.

Jazz a la Villette was another annual festival of super-jazz performers. Three saxophonists were in residence at the host venue, Cité de la Musique, August 29-September 9: Americans Wayne Shorter and Steve Coleman, and Frenchman Julien Lourau. My home state (Arizona) was represented by saxophonist Tony Malaby, now a New York musician who performed with Coleman's "Aquarius Ingress sextet of four saxophones (Ravi Coltrane and Miguel Zenon) and two clarinets (Mike McGinnis and Chris Speed), reminiscent of the World Saxophone Quartet. Altoist Coleman says he employs sounds as language, so rather than following the usual jazz format, his concert demonstrated his interest in unrestricted spontaneity of irregular sound patterns. The mainly youthful audience dug it, as well as flutist Magic Malik's pre-set that combined instruments, voice and electronics, including a turntablist.

The festival's highlight concert for me was the duo of guitarist Jim Hall and bassist Ron Carter, a meaningful musical dialogue from these septuagenarians (77 and 70, respectively). Hall's legendary crisp style was complemented by Carter's warm sound in a theater seating 1,500 on three levels. "Alone Together was an appropriate opener for the diverse 90-minute set that offered familiar charts whose titles alone elicited applause, such as "In a Sentimental Mood, "Skylark, "My Funny Valentine and an encore of "Bag's Groove. Hall's original, "Bent Blues, showed his ongoing interest in new sounds, and "Peace was performed free-association-style by this incredible pair.

The Cité previously staged an "Organ Summit, which featured global star (and another Arizona resident) Joey DeFrancesco with Dr. Lonnie Smith and Reuben Wilson. An earlier gospel-soul concert offered Solomon Burke, Lucky Peterson, The Campbell Brothers and the Blind Boys of Alabama. Also, on six consecutive summer nights, Arenes de Montmartre in the legendary artist-colony area staged a series that included the trio of saxophonist Dave Liebman, bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Adam Nussbaum along with organist Rhoda Scott and others. The now-annual Paris Plage (manufactured beach created on the Right Bank of the Seine) offered a mix of music, including jazz.

My first jazz-club outing upon arrival in July was to hear expat trombonist Sarah Morrow's newest band, Elektric Air, at the Sunset Jazz Club. Morrow, who has a strong Paris following, has shifted into a new sound in complete contrast to her straight-ahead concert last summer at Parc Floral (archived on this site as Paris Jazz Diary 2006). She has fused jazz with hip-hop for exciting and melodic improvised music, complete with a Los Angeles turntablist. The band of Americans from three coasts was fresh from the Vienne Jazz Festival in central France, playing to a curious and then appreciative audience of this infectiously funky sound.


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