Paris Jazz Diary 2012
The Paris Jazz Festival's weekend concerts at Parc Floral included an afternoon concert by Lisa Simone, singing from her own repertoire and the songbook of her mother, Nina Simone. Simone has been a Broadway mainstay since the 1990s, and demonstrated the vocal strength to sustain that segment of performance, but also the more understated nuances of her maternal influence. Another weekend featured the blues of singer-guitarist Keb' Mo', as well as successive French and European combos paying tributes to Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and Cole Porter. Park admission was 5.50 euros, with picnicking and wine-sipping permitted, following a stroll along a walkway that passed Chateau de Vincennes, a medieval castle.
The club scene stayed strong into early August, slowing somewhat during the traditional month of vacation for many Parisians. On many nights, four Seine bridges were crossed in order to arrive at Paris' most famous club, Le Caveau de la Huchette, in the Latin Quarter. The stone steps lead to the underground club that has presented live jazz since 1946, following the liberation of Paris during World War II. There's always a swing band playing American classics for dancers of all ages and sizes, guaranteeing the audience a visual and aural treat for 12 Euros (15 Euros on weekends), and inexpensive wine, beer and other drinks. Tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton, now living in Tuscany, had two summer bookings there, enthusiastically appreciated by a diverse age-mix audience. Other Americans booked at the club were pianist Al Copley and saxophonist Detroit Gary Wiggins, in addition to Joey Morant, who's known for playing two trumpets at once. Boogie-woogie pianists were also an ongoing favorite of the Huchette crowd.
As for the parallel of jazz in Paris to New York, the difference for fans on a tight budget is that there are so many French clubs with low or no admission cost. Among them are Café Universel, Les Oubliettes, Autour de Midi et Minuit, Jazz Cartoon, L'Atelier Charonne, Baiser Sale and Cav du 38 Riv.' Other venues that book local talent but have cover charges are Chez Papa, Swan Bar, Le Petit Journal St. Michel and Le Petit Journal Montparnasse.
Most jam sessions have free admission, and piano bars cost only the price of a drink. La Cité de la Musique arts complex on the eastern edge of Paris has many jazz and classical concerts, as well as exhibits relating to music. Radio station TSF (89.9 fm) programs 24/7 mainstream jazz, bebop and big band sounds.