Avril en Paris avec Beaucoup de Jazz!

Orchestra Baobab at the Philharmonic de Paris

This past April and early May, LMMF Artistic Director Leslie Drayton and I (Kathy Drayton) spent time in chilly, rainy Paris France.  Living as we imagined a Parisian would with a bit of tourism thrown in, we enjoyed the city and all it offered.  One highlight of the trip was our enjoyment of the music scene in the City of Lights, Paris. Jazz music is alive and well in the city.  

The most amazing experience was in an abandoned train station that was given a second life as a jazz venue. After waiting in line for over 45 minutes, we had to push our way into the space. The venue, La Gare Jazz, boasted a stage, rugs, and carpet placed on the riser and ceiling for acoustic sound. There were no tables or chairs, there was standing room only. 

The sounds of the three hundred people on a Sunday night, elbow to elbow, drinking pints and pints of beer, with very little space to the left or right was an experience. The French have a very different perspective on personal space. There is none, so the crowd stood very close to each other with very little space in front or back. However, everyone was enjoying the experience.

The MC took the stage, told some jokes in French (we could tell by the laughter), and the audience quieted so that you could hear a pin drop.  An American band led by pianist Jon Cowherd was the featured group.  As they took the stage, the audience was fully attentive, enjoying every note of the music. (see youtube video, not mine)

There was no cover to enter, but during the intermission, the MC walked through the audience with an old pocketbook held high above his head to accept donations. It was amazing to see how the crowd clamored to donate euros to the cause of live music. We returned to La Gare for a Tuesday night jam session led by students from the local conservatory. The crowd was just as large and excited while listening to jazz standards made famous by legendary American jazz musicians. This time there were a few seats, so it was a more comfortable outing for us.  

The jam session began with the student musicians playing a set of standard jazz tunes. Following a break, various musicians were invited to the stage to sit-in with the band. It was an interesting experience as a talented, young piano player took the stage and began playing another genre of music. The audience loved it, but the other musicians were lost trying to figure out how to play with him.  It was a classic case of musicians trying to get out of a tune before it led to chaos. They pulled it off well. 

 Our next outing to experience more jazz was at the New Morning Jazz Club.  The featured group was the John Scofield Quartet.  Scofield is a legendary American guitarist.  We were advised to arrive early to get a seat. Although we arrived an hour early, people were already lined down the block. Once the club opened and the line started moving, we missed getting a seat and was again in an elbow-to-elbow crowd. This crowd drank beer and listened to great music. (see youtube video, not mine) 

Our final live music adventure ended at the Philharmonic de Paris for a concert featuring Orchestra Baobab from Senegal West Africa. It was a high energy dance band whose members never stop moving, singing, playing and dancing. Eleven men performed on the crowded stage for nearly two hours without a break. The Philharmonic’s floor seating was removed, and the crowd jammed right up to the edge of the stage. Once the music started, the crowd never stopped dancing. We were pleased to have purchased reserved seats above the fray and enjoyed the performance from a comfortable distance. (see a vimeo video of a Norway performance, not mine)

It was such a great feeling to see how live music is respected and appreciated in Paris, especially the vast crowds supporting and enjoying jazz music. The music lovers do not mind waiting in long lines for entrance and then standing to enjoy the performance.  In addition to enjoying live music, we visited several museums and landmarks in the city.  Click here for a video presentation of photos taken by Leslie Drayton.  

Don’t forget to check back soon for our upcoming events. We are planning some exciting events that will introduce some of the elements from the musical experiences from our trip to Paris.

Thank you again for your support of Live Music Movement Foundation.