For the last six weeks I’ve been taking a break from posting and commenting daily to the Hallmark Card Shop From Hell that is Facebook 2012. All the sugary pics of cute puppies, kitties and babies, not to mention the inspirational aphorisms, have turned me into a borderline diabetic. Dangerous territory for an older guy.
Another off-putter has been the sarcasm and insults posted by aggressive atheists on FB. Hey, if you don’t want a religion, fine. Earth bless you. But not all of us subscribe to deleterious extremist faiths. I’m a lifelong practicing Greek Orthodox Christian. My tradition doesn’t proselytize. When I upload a photo of a church I visited to this blog or to Facebook, it’s only because that’s what I did that day. I’m not trying to sell you anything. Believe me.
I don’t know how long my Timesuckbook hiatus will last. I do check in once in a while to let folks know I’m alive and to reply to important FB messages. I must say I’ve been enjoying the time to read books, see movies, hang with friends (in person), and explore the cultural offerings of my gorgeous city.
Here are a few things Marti and I were up to in March . . .
What was that I said about not posting pics of cute babies? My little neighbor June, shown here with her parents Michela and Stéphane, is too lovely not to share. They were headed out for a night on the town. As were Marti and I.
We were enroute to meet our friends Sally and Mike, who were in town from the UK. We spent several fun evenings with them during the visit.
Three of our longtime musician pals were reuniting for a special gig in Montparnasse.
We rendezvoused with Sally and Mike at the club, then quickly realized that we had time to grab a bite before the concert. When we found a Cretan snack bar around the corner, the musicians were already there and the proprietor warmly greeted us. Especially after I started chatting him up in Greek. The food, of course, was deelish.
The guys were great. They played classic rock, blues and Grateful Dead songs. Sally and Mike said they loved the performance and dug the intimate loftlike setting.
One of my off-Facebook activities has been to weed out my overstuffed closets, so I gave Denis my vintage jeans jacket with custom-embroidered Steal-Your-Face logo on the back. I think he appreciated it.
Marti and I parted company with Mike and Sally and our other friends sometime after midnight, headed to a main drag to hail a taxi and stumbled upon this place.
La Belaire is a restaurant-bar that offers live jazz six nights a week, with jams until 6 a.m. Bassist Kevin Gervais was leading a group that featured a chanteuse whose name I didn’t get. My bride and I dropped in for a nightcap and a set.
The following evening we hooked up with Mike and Sally at Le Кrǝmliи vodka bar in Pigalle. It’s my new favorite place to defy my doctor’s orders. I’m being pretty good, though. Just chipping at alcohol these days. And clearly the girls still love me.
Afterward we cabbed to the Marais for dinner at Chez Janou. The Provençal cuisine may be good here, but I’ve grown to hate this restaurant. It’s claustrophobic and the din created by diners refusing to use their inside voices makes it seem like dining inside a jet turbine engine. Fortunately I had a couple of spliffs rolled, providing a socially acceptable reason to step outside for a few minutes of sanity.
A saving grace was our late-night stroll through the arcades of the Place des Vosges, the elegant 17th-century square that is Marti’s favorite in Paris.
One last evening out with Sally and Mike. We went to the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord for a chamber music concert.
Dating back to 1876, this gloriously decrepit venue was revived by British director Peter Brook, who took over the edifice in 1974 as the home for his theater company. In recent years he has passed the baton on to a pair of reputable Parisian impresarios.
On this evening we heard the Pražák Quartet perform Prokofiev’s String Quartet No. 2 and Schubert’s 14th: Death And The Maiden. Marti and I love this Prague-based ensemble. We met cellist Michal Kaňka several years ago at a concert in a tiny church in the Spanish Pyrenees and have followed his quartet ever since.
A special treat for me here at the Bouffes du Nord was hearing the 1995 String Quartet No. 2 by French composer Gilbert Amy (shown above second from left taking a bow with the Pražáks). I had seen a video of the 12-minute composition on YouTube. At intermission I had an opportunity to speak briefly with Amy, to tell him how much I liked the piece. He kindly autographed my program.
After the concert we went around the corner to the Dishny Indian restaurant for late dinner. Given all the excellent Indian cuisine available in London, Marti and I were happy to hear Sally and Mike give high praise to the eats here. And we were delighted to have been able to spend so much quality time with them.
For several months each year Sally and Mike may be found cruising France aboard their Dutch barge Ailsa.*Click here*to see pics of their canalgoing adventures.
On Tuesday evening March 20 we went to New Morning to see Shemekia Copeland. Girl can sing! Marti and I hung out at the back of the crowd, even danced to her exhilarating blues fusion. Shemekia’s band rocked, particularly the incomparable Arthur Neilson on guitar, who contributed mightily to her sound.
My bride and I were guests that evening of our longtime publicist pal Yazid Manou. He’s a sweet guy. Thanks again, Yazid.
New Morning triptych: Men’s room; Elliott Murphy; Ladies’ room.
Before we departed I stopped by the merch table to tell Shemekia that I knew she was real because I’d seen her on TV. She laughed. I had watched the live stream of Red, White & Blues from the White House a month earlier, when she joined our friends Warren Haynes and Susan Tedeschi and a cast of other great blues artists in concert. She said it had been a thrill to become Mick Jagger’s backup singer for a night.
This past Friday evening Marti and I went to the Marché Buci for dinner at the Atlas, then headed down to the Café Laurent, where vibraphonist extraordinaire Nicholas Thomas was guesting with the Christian Brenner Trio.
I’m a huge vibes fan from waaaaay back. One of the first jazz albums I bought in the 1950s was by West Coast vibraphone ace Terry Gibbs. Marti and I sat right by the vibraphone all evening. Nicholas is a whiz on the mallets. Terrific energy and mad improvisatory skills, combined with superb taste. What a pleasure it was to dig his playing up close.
A surprise guest Friday evening was Ronnie Lynn Patterson, a remarkable pianist who sat in on a couple of the sets. Equally at home in the classical vein, he has a very refined touch and plays jazz in a marvelous wide-open extemporary style.
I spoke with Ronnie between sets. He told me he was born in Wichita, Kansas, grew up in Madrid, Spain and in Mississippi. Like Marti and me, Ronnie lived in Washington, DC in the 1980s and emigrated to Paris in 1991. We reminisced about Washington-area musicians such as Ron Holloway, Gil Scott-Heron and Shirley Horn, as well as favorite old jazz haunts like One Step Down on Pennsylvania Avenue. That place had a jukebox full of classic jazz 45s that I always envied.
"I practically lived there," Ronnie told me. Small planet, ain’t it?
Christian Brenner Quartet Days Of Wine And Roses
Christian Brenner - Piano Laurent Fradelizi - Bass Olivier Robin - Drums Guest: Nicholas Thomas - Vibraphone