Paris Jazz Diary
“ Even events commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Paris included live jazz. ”
PARIS, FranceAmericans nostalgic for jazz sounds of the '40s to the '60s will find a trip to Paris as satisfying as enjoying the cuisine and viewing the Eiffel Tower.
Classic and mainstream jazz is played in a dozen nightclubs by French and European musicians, along with Afro-Cuban, Brazilian and contemporary genres. In my notes from two months of outings are titles such as "Lady Be Good," "It Don't Mean a Thing," "Ain't Misbehavin'," "Route 66" and "Satin Doll."
The evergreen repertoires of Ellington, Basie and Nat Cole are especially valued by the swing-dance crowd, a group of regulars that frequents two underground clubs, Le Slow Club and Le Caveau de la Huchette, the oldest in Paris. Feet never rest when boogie-woogie and juke-joint hits are performed by enthusiastic veteran singer "Big Charley" or exuberant young pianist-vocalist Julien "JB" Brunetaud.
West Coast-cool sounds continue to attract audiences of all ages at Le Petit Journal St. Michel where the Dominique Bertrand Quintet offered alto-tenor interplay on Art Pepper's "Miss You" and Jimmy Guiffre's "That's Just the Way It Is" A New Orleans-style favorite at the same cave is Paris Washboard, a lively quartet featuring ear-bending stride-pianist Louis Mazetier.
For a tribute to Lionel Hampton, I was pleased to hear two of my longtime Parisian favorites together, pianist Philippe Duchemin and vibraphonist Dany Doriz at la Huchette Doriz has issued eight CDs, and played with many jazz greats, including Hampton, Illinois Jacquet, Harry "Sweets" Edison, "Toots" Thielemans, Clark Terry, Wild Bill Davis, Bob Wilber, Red Holloway, Cat Anderson and Butch Miles.
Even events commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Paris included live jazz. A French band played in the Luxembourg Garden for swing dancers moving across a concrete pad to "Ain't She Sweet," "Dinah" and, of course, Sidney Bechet's classic "Petite Fleur." Later, adjacent to Notre Dame Cathedral, a symphony orchestra played French songs and marches, then performed tributes to Louis Armstrong and Glenn Miller before closing with Gershwin's theme for the film "An American in Paris." Cheers with many accents.
But not all the musicians I hear are linked exclusively to World War II era sounds. Europeans of more recent generations who explore more modern paths include alto saxophonist Geraldine Laurent, pianist Achille Gajo, saxophonist Jef Sicard, guitarist Benoit Gil and pianist Antoine Hervier. Just as in the U.S., musicians here are continually writing and arranging charts with new sounds to keep jazz alive and growing.
This fall, Parisian guitarist-composer Yves Cutulic will find his original music on a Warner Bros. web site using new technology. Cutulic, who can finger-pick like Chet Atkins and play like Django or Segovia, writes music that encompasses classical, Irish, rock and jazz. He leads a collective of 25 musicians with musical roots in Europe, Japan and India. Among his diverse compositions are "Dr. Davis and Mr. Smiles" dedicated to Miles Davis'"Tutu" period, and a two-guitar tribute to the unlikely team of James Joyce and Bill Evans titled "Ulysses."
Another departure from '40s swing was performed by Italian pianist Giovanni Mirabassi, whose cascading rivulets and tempo shifts merge Evans with Ravel, Brubeck with Rachmaninov. Mirabassi is a keyboard colossus with a strong following among younger listeners.
The summer season brings many touring American musicians to Paris clubs, such as vocalists-pianists Andy Bey and Karrin Allyson, saxophonist Chris Potter, trumpeter Eddie Henderson, Spirit of Life Ensemble, Alec Acuna and saxophonist Ravi Coltrane.
Many more are featured at outdoor festivals such as Parc Floral and Parc Villette, including Brad Mehldau, Shirley Horn, Chris Potter, Stacey Kent, Dave Douglas, Charles Lloyd, Dianne Reeves, Kurt Elling, Michael Brecker and Roy Hargrove.
There also were gigs by expats such as organist Rhoda Scott, barefoot on the pedals at Huchette. In addition to scheduled combos, there are many jam session nights each week (les boeufs), allowing new sounds to be heard at clubs (listed in the weekly magazines Pariscope and L'Officiel des Spectacles). I also found good European and American jazz CDs at a shop memorably named Moby Disques.
Other American expats include vocalists Sylvia Howard, whom I heard at Le Sept Lezards and a new club, Jazz Cartoon; Joan Minor at Le Sept; and Cynthia MacPherson at her ongoing gig in the Hotel Lutetia.
Ms. Howard's club gigs in Paris were sparse this summer because she spent most of the weeks performing at European festivals, including Jazz au Juan at Antibes (near Nice and Cannes), Jazz Fest L'Abbaye de Fontdouce (in a 12th century chateau near Cognac), Jazz Festival du Enghien-les-Bains (where Marcus Miller jumped up on stage to join the band), Colmar (opening for Cedar Walton), Blues in Chedigny (opening for Lucky Peterson), plus a week at Muddy Waters Blues Club in Oslo, Norway. Originally from Indianapolis and then Phoenix, she worked for 10 years in Singapore, Jakarta and Bali before moving to Paris.
Sarah Morrow, an expat from Columbus, Ohio, also spent the summer touring, so her club bookings were rare, too.
Kate Michaels, an American living in Switzerland, presented a vocal tribute to Hollywood legend Marilyn Monroe, selecting songs from her films, such as "Do It Again," "Heatwave," and "My Heart Belongs to Daddy," and Michaels' CD, Just Marilyn.
The dinner-concert at Le Petit Journal Montparnasse featured the singer's Red Thread Trio of pianist Stephan Kraus, bassist Roland Doeringer and drummer Marko Klotz, enlarged into a swinging little-big band by three French musicians Cyril Moret on saxophones, Jerome Dousautoy on trumpet and Jean-Paul Noves on trombone.
While in Paris, I know I will hear plenty of music of all kinds in the Metro stations and the cars themselves. Whatever the style, when playing aboard the cars, the concept of time is an important factor and not just to keep the beat. Musicians hustle aboard, play a short song or two, then circulate to collect coins for their efforts. When the subway stops at the next station, they hurry from the car and board the one ahead or behind, continually repeating the cycle.
One afternoon the musician in the Chatelet station was Les Theard, a part-time expat from New Orleans. I had previously heard this Sonny Rollins-influenced tenor saxophonist at a house party in Antony, on the outskirts of Paris, and later guesting with bands at Les Fous en L'Ile and Le Sept Lezards. His own combo, including pianist Henri Miezin, is booked for club gigs in the fall and spring by his manager, Colin Gravois, the house-party host and former European festival producer.
I even added my own voice to the Paris jazz experience, but don't worry, I didn't try to sing! I was a guest speaker for one of Patricia Laplante-Collins' weekly arts salons. The topic for my Paris Soirees evening was "Top Ten Jazz Encounters," recalling my interviews and experiences with Dizzy, Ella, Count, Lionel, Buddy, Maynard, Mose, etc. Before and after my remarks, it was wonderful to hear such enthusiasm about "our" music.
It's good to remember that although Europeans decry current American policies, they continue to venerate and cultivate the born-in-the-USA sound of jazz, an international language that surpasses cultural, political and ethnic differences.