Thursday, October 25, 2007

Paris Jazz Scene

I decided it was time to start seeing the world through music. I started last year with the Telluride Jazzfest. This year, I found this trip to Italy with the NY Open Center entitled "Food for the Soul" that looked good. It was only for a week, though and I'd prefer to take a longer trip to Europe. I realized this was a good opportunity to go to Paris first and start exploring the jazz scene. I was only in Europe once, about 15 years ago and I didn't really like jazz then. I did most of the tourist things back then so this trip could be more about doing whatever I feel like, with the express purpose of exploring the jazz. I'd had the desire for a while, ever since I started noticing that whenever French artists come here, they are excellent.

I kept wishing there was a book about the Paris Jazz scene. I kept searching on the internet and finally found a book called Paris Jazz. It's a good little book. It talks about some of the classic old jazz clubs that no longer exist as well as some new ones. I marked the ones that the book said are still open that looked interesting. I also found a couple of websites and did some more searching. In the end, I went on to google maps and just typed in "Paris Jazz Clubs" and found several clusters of them. I marked them on my comprehensive book of maps, which already had some of them already marked on there.

After doing the research and reading a great book of essays called Paris, Paris, I decided I wanted to stay in the Marais.

I didn't want to spend a fortune on the hotel, but I also didn't want to stay in a dive and I wanted to have a place to stay before I got there. I found some reviews on the internet for Hotel Beauborg and it looked like a good place to stay in a prime location, right by Pompidou Center. It was a great hotel and reasonably priced at 125 Euros a night, which included tax. That is a great price for the location and it was clean and the rooms are soundproof, which is good for sleeping in.

I got in late due to runway traffic at JFK. I arrived at the hotel around 2pm on 9/1 and was able to check in immediately. I went to bed for a few hours and went out walking around, checking out the scene and trying to walk by the jazz clubs. I was asking around, looking for the "all about jazz" or "time out NY" of Paris, with my almost non-existent French. I finally found out a guide to get is "Pariscope".

I didn’t buy it that day because it was toward the end of the Pariscope-week. I was fortunate to find a copy in a great café another day, so I read the listings there. Even though it was in French, I could decipher who was playing and where. I also had my book of maps and jazz club notes to help me figure out what might be good. The magazine was still only valid for a couple more days, though. I ended up at Les 7 Lezards for some local less-known artists. It was pretty good. I got a kick out of how they had to write on the house drums “please do not touch the drums” (in French, of course). That says a lot about French people. Then, a guy actually did touch the piano keys while he was walking by. It was a nice, intimate room with a great vibe. I saw a piano trio: Jolic le Masson (piano), Jean-Jacques Avenel (bass), and John Betsch (drums). I enjoyed it. I think it was 15 Euro. I was sick of sitting toward the end, though. I kind of wanted to look for more at around 1am, but realized I should go to bed and get my bearings and make sure I’m wandering around safe areas. I was – Paris is pretty safe, especially in the Marais area.

Aha! So “liens” means “links” and it looks like 7 Lezards has some links to some great resources:

My second day was spent sleeping late, getting over jetlag. No big deal, because I was more interested in the night since I did most of the tourist stuff before. I was disappointed to see a few Starbucks around. I refuse to go there unless I am really desperate, which wouldn’t happen in Paris or NYC. I will note that any café where I got a tea to go was given in a teeny, tiny cup. I expect that to change over time. Still, when I sat in the cafes for tea, I usually got a nice big pot. It’s so nice to sit in those cafes.

It was Sunday night, and I felt the best option I could find was the Jazz Jam at Les 7 Lezards, which was free. No cover, no tip jar. I first had a wonderful pot of tea upstairs and it is a great café as well. The jazz was excellent. Lots and lots of different musicians. I really liked the oboe, I don’t recall seeing that very often. It gave a middle eastern flair to the music. There were lots of people on stage at a time and they knew how to jam for the most part. The only bad moment was when a guy brought a microphone and sang. He wasn’t that good, and I don’t like singers in general. Luckily, they only let him do 1 song. I had a couple of glasses of wine and ended up dancing in the back. It was great!

I was so well rested I needed more music. But, it was Sun night. I decided to bite the bullet and check out the Guiness Bar, which had a classic rock cover band. That was pretty wild. Those French people really know how to let loose and scream and get into it. It was annoying that this one guy kept drumming on the table very, very loudly with his arm. He was sitting pretty close to the band. I resisted the urge to say “they have a drummer”.

These Americans kept asking for ACDC and they finally delivered “Highway to Hell” and people went insane. It was fun and good for a ½ hour before calling it a night. It felt more like a vacation because I’d never do that in my own town.

Monday I felt great and over the jetlag.

I tried to go to the Jazz Jam at Le Basier Sale, but it was too crowded and there was a singer. It would have been good, but I wasn’t up for it. I had done a lot of walking that day and really had a great day. I think that’s the one night I skipped the music, but it was Mon. I did go back to the club the next night and it was nice when it wasn’t so tight.

The jazz highlight was indeed Tues night. 3 clubs, 3 bands, 3 sets each, doing 3 different genres of the music of Wayne Shorter, for 20 euros. There were no minimums at any of the jazz places I went to, and plenty of people didn’t order anything. I do think the Guiness Bar had a 10 Euro minimum, but I’m not sure.

Each of these bands were exceptionally good.

Paris Jazz Club présente : "Une entrée, trois clubs" Wayne SHORTER est en ville...Thomas SAVY "Ugetsu" SextetThomas SAVY - saxophones ; Christophe LELOIL - trompette ; Jerry EDWARDS - trombone ; Carinne BONNEFOY - piano ; Simon TAILLEU - c.basse ; Fabrice MOREAU - batterie

Le Basier Sale:
Autour de Wayne Shorter ERIC SEVA & STEPHANE CHAUSSEÉric Séva saxes soprano/sopranino/baryton,Stéphane Chausse clarinette/clarinette basse, Alfio Origlio piano, Jérôme Regard contrebasse, Mathieu Chazarenc batterie

the Volunteered Slaves "Tribute to Weather Report"
featuring Olivier Temime
Jérôme BARDE - guitare bardophone ; Emmanuel DUPREY - fender Rhodes ; Akim BOURNANE - basse ; Julien CHARLET - batterie ; Arnold MUEZZA - percussions ; Olivier TEMIME - sax

First up, I didn’t realize they were each playing 3 sets, I thought we started in Sunside, then went to Sunset and then to Le Basier Sale together. I loved the sextet at Sunside. Grooving, all excellent musicians, worthy of a great jazz club here in NYC.

Then, I went downstairs for the tribute to Weather Report, which was phenomenally funky and just great. That was the right room for it, I could dance in the back and it had a great vibe. They had cushiony seats all over the place, but also plenty of space for dancing in the back by the bar. I only caught ½ of their set because they were on simultaneously with the other bands, but the times were a little staggered.

I went next door and up the stairs to Le Basier Sale and we were told we wouldn’t have to wait long for the band. Another excellent band worthy of a great jazz club in NYC. That music seemed to have a little more of a world influence, the sextet was more jazz, but very lively jazz.

Then, I went back to Sunset to finish up with more of the Volunteered Slaves. You could tell this was one of their places where they play a lot and they felt very at home, with their regular fan base, etc. They did a lot of their own music for their 3rd set. It was also pretty good. Toward the end of the night, it was the bartenders birthday, so they broke out a cake and sang, “Bon Anniversaire” or something like that, to the same tune as our own “Happy Birthday”. The cake looked phenomenal, but no one offered me any, and I don’t speak the language.

I knew that was good enough to hold me for the next 9 days of probably little or no music aside from an ipod. I’m looking forward to going back again next year and exploring more. I really want to check out the Barbes area, which I think has a lot of world music.

Here’s a good link for future trips:

And, if I can decipher this, it looks like it might have info:

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