Tuesday, November 4, 2008

October was a great month for music in Paris. Marti and I enjoyed opportunities to get out to see many of our favorite artists.

On October 8 we journeyed across town to the 20th arrondissement to catch a gig by Jenny Lewis. Before the show we grabbed a tasty early dinner at a nearby African restaurant called Teranga, which specializes in cuisine from the Ivory Coast.

Then we headed around the corner to La Maroquinerie, where Jenny Lewis was spotlighting songs from her excellent new solo album Acid Tongue. Jenny is so much fun. We'd seen the former child actress from Van Nuys a while back with her group Rilo Kiley, at the Nouveau Casino.

We ran into a couple of guys from the Paris Krew at the show. Yazid, our publicist pal, was working with Benji Hughes, who opened for Jenny. And Rick (pictured) had come to the show on our tip.

After the concert Rick, Marti and I walked down to one of our default watering holes, Habana Jazz, for mojito nightcaps.

Doug Brodoff.
Depicter of Little Green Men.

Petits Hommes Verts.

To raise funds for his legal battle to remain in France, our friend Doug was conducting an auction of his wonderfully whimsical paintings and photos of Parisian streetcleaners. You can contribute to Doug's fund too. Marti had given me a print of his "Abbey Road - Paris" pic. On Friday evening October 17 we dropped by the auction and purchased another to give as a Christmas gift.

We left Doug's artists squat and Métro'd up to Antinea, where our singer-songwriter friend Gabriela Arnon was performing.

Marti and I hung out at the bar for Gabriela's first set. The Antinea is mainly a crowded restaurant scene and quarters were getting close. I've developed a tendency toward claustrophobia in my old age and being jostled by French people with no regard for personal space doesn't help matters. That, coupled with mindless rhythmic clapping -- where the fuck am I, camp? -- is usually sufficient to get me to head for zee hills.

We busted a move out of the Antinea and trained down to the trés raffiné Café Laurent on the Left Bank. This is the hotel bar where everybody knows our name, if you will. All I have to do is catch the eye of Flavien, the manager, and he whisks Marti and me (and any running buddies we've brought along) to the nearest available banquette.

Our friend Christian Brenner, pianist extraordinaire, has maintained a residency here for several years. The scene never gets old; he's constantly changing things up: reconfiguring trios and quartets, inviting marvelous guest soloists to share the bandstand.

One night my former theatrical costume designer bride and I decided to take in a French play called Lorenzaccio, about a Medici prince. The highlight: I understood much more of the French dialogue than I'd expected. A stubborn kinda fellow, I've never taken a lesson in the French language. Apparently there's something to be said for learning by osmosis.

The lowlights -- and there were many -- included over-the-top line readings by the lead actor, an eccentric French singer named Francis Lalanne. At one point the dude came this close to literally chewing the scenery. He was holding a cheesy-looking bedspread tantalizingly near his mouth as he was delivering the 900th in a series of numbing soliloquys. A little closer, a little closer, I egged him on in my mind. Had he actually shoved that dirty scrap of fabric in his pie hole, I was ready to jump up and signal "Touchdown!" Next to me, poor Marti was trying to stifle her giggles.

I went alone one evening to see a local worldfunkjazz group called Attache Parisienne at a venue in the Marais called La Cave se rebiffe. I was pleasantly surprised to find that our friend Victoria Rummler, an excellent jazz chanteuse, has joined Nora Sandal and Cécile N’Debi in the vocal ensemble.

Marti and I are friends of Ben Coulentianos, a remarkable guitarist, whom we met when he was performing with Natalia M. King. He heads up the fine group of musicians who support this terrific vocal trio. After the gig I hung out at the bar with Victoria and her pianist friend Nico Morelli. Vic -- a blonde -- told me a cool blonde joke. How do you drown a blonde? Put a mirror at the bottom of the pool.

Costas Coulentianos, Reclining Nude, 1946-1947.

At the end of the evening Ben was kind enough to give me ride back to the Left Bank. We had a great conversation, about music, about Greece, about our families. Ben's dad was a highly-regarded sculptor who worked in wood, stainless steel and gold-plated bronze, among other materials. Ben would be rising early the next morning to fly to Athens, enroute to Northern Greece to open an exhibition of his father's creations.

On Friday evening the 24th, I was on the beat alone again. I went to the OPA Bastille to see our friend Yasmin Shah, who was appearing with her trio. She gave a superb performance, very animated with an extraordinary display of vocal chops, kicking down a lot of songs I hadn't heard before. I schmoozed a bit with her squeeze and regisseur, Jean-Paul. And thanked Yasmin afterward for the video she'd sent me of the blonde singer soundchecking into the wrong end of the mic. Then I told her Victoria's blonde joke about the swimming pool.

On November 2 Marti and I went to the Sunday service at her church, the American Cathedral. My bride was seeking a little spiritual uplift before undergoing a minor medical procedure later this week.

After church we went to the Latin Quarter for lunch at a health food restaurant I discovered not long ago called Phyto Bar.

Then we went next door to Le Piree, the Greek traiteur, to obtain a few items for Sunday night's dinner: olives, bread, pastry, our favorite Greek red and a bottle of Ouzo. Marti wowed the lady behind the counter with her spot-on Greek pronunciation. When the woman had problems with the credit card reader and issued a popular Greek slang word, I reminded Marti that the word was part of the vocabulary I'd taught her. We all laughed. Like the French, Greeks love to celebrate their argot.

We capped off the afternoon with a hang and some serious people-watching at the Flore. Marti ordered their remarkable hot chocolate -- brewed from actual chocolate, not powder -- and I had the Flore's trademark expresso laced with Bailey's.

Yesterday I made a trip to Amsterdam on a cultural exchange mission.