Paris Jazz Diary 2011
Among US-based touring musicians I heard was Monty Alexander at New Morning, a predominantly jazz and blues venue. The pianist staged a two-band contingent to perform charts from his recent Grammy-nominated CD, Harlem-Kingston Express (Motéma, 2011). His infectious, high-energy swinging merged straight-ahead jazz and reggae sounds, each band featured as the other supplemented on hits such as an extended rendition of Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry" that captivated the audience of 250. Also at New Morning last summer was trumpeter Roy Hargrove, whose evergreen repertoire included "Never Let Me Go" and "The Lamp Is Low," his flugelhorn warmly loving on "I'm Glad There Is You," and then blazing a samba route and rousing the crowd with funky sounds.
It's always a pleasure to reconnect with former Arizona jazz and blues singer Sylvia Howard, who has lived in Paris for 12 years. Her summer itinerary included several major European festivals, but she also performed a full week in the jazz lounge of the five-star Hotel Meridien L'Etoile. Her book of American standards included "Tenderly" and "You'd Be So Easy to Love," as well as blues and pop that fit her subsequent booking at Le Caveau de la Huchette, a swing-dance underground venue (the oldest continuous jazz club in Paris, since 1946) that, later in the month, featured fluent boogie-woogie pianist Jean-Paul Amouroux, who has entertained in the city since 1970.
Among the most popular small clubs is Café Universel, with frequent jams featuring French vocalists who sing American songs in English, many of them students at the Sorbonne or University of Paris. Caveau de les Oubliettes is a two-room cellar-club with elbow-to-elbow seating at tiny tables under low ceilings. In contrast, Café Laurent is a spacious bar-lounge in the Hotel D'Aubusson. Le Petit Journal St. Michel and Le Petit Journal Montparnasse are small and large supper clubs, respectively. Melody Blues is a boat that cruises the Seine River during performances. Other venues include Chez Papa, Jazz Cartoon, Swan Bar and Le Blue Note.
These jazz clubs are full of dedicated listeners of all ages, even when admission is as high as 25 to 40 Euros ($36 to $60), although most entry costs are much less. Most jam sessions have free admission, and piano bars cost only the price of a drink. La Cité de la Musique arts complex has jazz and classical concerts, as well as fascinating exhibits relating to music. And radio station TSF (89.9 fm) programs 24/7 mainstream jazz and bebop.