Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Holiday Music, All That (Paris) Jazz . . .

Besides viewing some wonderful art while we were away, we also enjoyed a variety of live music performances. In Bordeaux's gorgeous Opera House,

 we shared a beautifully decorated box with a lovely older couple and listened to the Raphael Quartet. I'd love to return to Bordeaux some year to take advantage of the Quartet Festival -- and I'd love to see an opera in that magnificent building

 We peeked around a bit the day we popped in to buy our tickets, and they had a display of some magnificent costumes used over the years. . .
 And look at that staircase . . .
To go to the opera in Bordeaux's Grand Théâtre might mean I'd have to break my carry-on-only luggage policy -- that's a staircase to dress for!

Much less formal, but still very satisfying were the impromptu performances we encountered on the Paris streets. Here, music students (at least, that was our best guess) busked their way through a number of classical excerpts in front of the Comédie Française. Over the years, we've seen a number of very talented individuals and groups performing here -- I'd say it's worth stopping by if you're in the area (1st arrondissement).

Just across the Seine, right by St. Germain church, this jazz combo had set up camp, piano, double bass, and drums.
Sunshine, a happy crowd,
Paris people-watching . . .
Plane trees, dappled shade . . .

What's not to love, right?

Our Paris stay coincided with the St. Germain-des-Près Jazz Festival which offers a number of free events along with some hot-ticket items. The Jacques Schwarz-Bart Quartet free mini-concert at FNAC helped turn around my Why's it raining in Paris? grumpiness, and if we hadn't had a dinner scheduled with friends that evening, we would have gone to the main event. As it was, we bought a copy of the quartet's new CD, The Art of Dreaming, and even had it signed my Mr. S-B himself.

We also bought tickets to a concert in Eglise St. Germain to see Laurent de Wilde and Stefano di Battista, playing together for the first time specifically for, and because of, the festival. This was a spectacular concert, mesmerizing, captivating, intoxicating . . . all the superlatives.

And one night we wandered into Cafe Laurent for a drink in an intimate, jazz-soaked setting, pianist and double-bass player being on their last set, just enough music left to send us winding our way home through the still-lively-at-midnight Left Bank streets.

After our run this last Sunday, back on our little island so far from Paris, we put the Schwarz-Bart Quartet CD on and settled in with our newspapers and our usual hearty post-run breakfast of bacon, eggs, and Paul's baking-powder biscuits.  .  . It's not very French, that breakfast, but one improvises, under the influence of jazz, non?

For another account of impromptu jazz encounters in France, check out my friend Alison's blog -- she's posted a charming watercolour illustration of the piano that enlivened a pique-nique cerises she was fortunate enough to be invited to. Alison's a talented artist, currently cycling through Provence with her husband before she begins teaching a two-week painting class in a small town near Toulouse. I warn you, lifestyle envy will ensue, but she writes and photographs and paints so well, you'll be well rewarded. 


  1. What a wonderful scene! I'm so glad you had some sunshine. I'm making a note of the Jazz Festival, and may try to plan our next Paris visit around that. On our very first Paris trip, we went to a jazz concert: Ben Sidran and Georgie Fame. However the opening act really blew us away: a trio (since christened Triphase) led by percussionist Anne Paceo. I've since purchased all of their music available on iTunes. Each time we go to Paris we look to see if she's performing in town during our usually brief stays, so far no luck.

  2. What fun. Musicians always seem to be the happiest people around, don't you think?

    We've heard that Europeans in general are more appreciative of jazz than Norte Americanos.

  3. I'm jealous of all your jazz in Paris. At least I was working at an archive near the Prado for one of the weeks that I was in Madrid, so I got to hear a lot of classical Spanish guitar walking to and from my work.

  4. Too long since I have been to Paris! We have a trip to Berlin planned for the autumn so that will have to be my European cities fix for the year (well except for London of course!)

  5. I am impressed by that piano on the sidewalk. A piano is not an easy thing to move.

  6. One of the great joys of travel is to weave the trip's highlights back into your life at home, as you have. (And how I adore baking powder biscuits!) And talk about busking at the very highest level!


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