“Up Above My Head” Création Jazz A Vienne avec Camille, Sandra Nkaké, Raphaël Lemonnier, Raphaël Imbert 

As much as statistical analysis of attendance, the reputation of a jazz festival is measured through its potential to encourage the creation of musical works or new shows. This is the approach pursued by Jazz in Vienna by asking the pianist Nîmes Raphaël Lemonnier to propose a creation. After a long maturation, the result is ready tonight for the opening of the thirty-ninth edition of the festival in front of the public of the Theater Antique. This project draws its inspiration from the African-American music of “work songs”, songs of prisoners, blues and gospel totally in the lineage of collecting work done by ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax in the South of the United States. Raphael Lemonnier likes to remind that“This project has been in my head for a long time, more precisely since the day of my eleven years when I am offered a box of four vinyls of songs and blues recorded in the penitentiaries of the southern United States. So overwhelming … a proof to come back with the opportunity offered by Jazz in Vienna! “

Raphaël Lemonnier has led in this adventure two singers who have always bathed in the blues and African music  Camille and Sandra Nkaké . When we know the interest of saxophonist   Raphael Imbertfor the music of the South of the United States his participation in the project was just as obvious. Versatile musicians   Pierre François Dufour (drums and cello) and Christophe Minck (double bass and ngoni) skilfully complete the visible team on stage knowing that the show’s dimension has been particularly neat with arrangements by Clément Ducol and a particular attention paid to the sets , costumes, lighting and above all choreography.

For the opening track, the six actors-singers of the show are gathered standing at the center of the stage, each sporting a wooden perch of a sort of long pickaxe that will prove throughout the show as a real percussion instrument for accompany the heavy song and taking of the two singers. Raphael Lemonnier’s bas-hued right piano and double bass came into play to accompany Sandra Nkaké’s powerful vocals, echoed by Camille’s, before giving way to a plain line of sax and muffled drums. The pieces follow one another (we could even speak here of successive paintings as the colors and staging change regularly) and plunge us into the heart of original black music, blues, gospel, songs of work, of prisoners or of demands, and as if to remind us that Africa is never far away in the American black music drums and ngoni (sort of Malian banjo) come to color the songs and the paintings. On the pieceI have a dream delicately accompanied on the piano, Camille even proposes a couplet in French as to show us that these revolts are also ours and concern us just as much. The mood goes up a notch on the song that gives its title to the show Up above my head originally a gospel of the 40s that Sister Rosetta Tharpe has tinged rock’n’roll in the 50s. a capella for a nigga spiritual gathering everyone around a large raw wood table regularly hammered by the strikes of six singers, totally striking and challenging … We think of the painting of Leonardo da Vinci “The Last Supper”.

 The most emotionally charged keys of the concert are indisputably found in the two singing songs of the singers: for Camille it is a touching version of Sometimes I feel like a motherless child with just the discreet and restrained support of some bass lines, cello and bass clarinet. For Sandra Nkaké it will be on the bitter and upsetting Strange fruit made even more heartbreaking by the plaintive flights of the tenor of Raphael Imbert. Fortunately for the rest we will find a little more lightness with Turn me round  a hymn that has accompanied the struggle for civil rights and finds its place here as the culmination of the struggles of black Americans. And until the end the haunting percussion on stage boards or drums as to better embellish not only the songs of Camille and Sandra but also that of the musicians who also give the unrestrained voice almost forgetting their instrument.

In summary: a creation particularly well elaborated as much by the choice of the pieces as by setting to music and in scene; around Raphaël Lemonnier a team of musicians and singers that we feel very involved in this project to which we wish wholeheartedly to find its place on other great scenes. 

Source: 28/06/2019 « Up Above My Head » Création Jazz A Vienne avec Camille, Sandra Nkaké, Raphaël Lemonnier, Raphaël Imbert … – Jazz-Rhone-Alpes

Send in the clowns – and send me, too!

By: Michael Stevenson

My wife Linda and I enjoyed such a wonderful vacation in France this past month.

We began our trip in Paris’ Butte-aux-Cailles neighborhood in the underappreciated 13th arrondissement. Butte-aux-Cailles was a pleasant surprise, with its amazing street art, local bistros, and funky bars. We had a groovy night of Afro-Pop and dancing the evening of the Fete de Musique!

Next we took a train to Avignon where we rented a car to drive to the seaside village of Cassis. This was perfect timing, as the temperatures climbed over 110 degrees. We cooled ourselves with an ocean swim and boat ride through Cassis’ beautiful calanques.

We then drove three hours north from Cassis to Vienne to attend their annual Jazz Festival. There, in the magnificent outdoor Theatre Antique, we watched a fantastic show performed by Canadian piano man Chilly Gonzales. We drove south again to our favorite village in Provence, Venasque, meeting-up with our friends Jim and Shirley, who are our neighbors back come in Rhode Island, USA.

It was in Venasque that I was fortunate to be introduced to “Compagnie Née au Vent,” in a street performance by the company’s two “clowns”/actors, Claire Néel and Alexandre Florent.

A bus crashes Cyrano and the clowns show their mercy

The two clowns, in character as “Bombyx” and “Luna”, performed scenes from the classic novel “Cyrano de Bergerac,” as well as skits from the Hollywood movies Dirty Dancing, Titanic, and (my favorite) the spaghetti scene from Disney’s Lady & the Tramp.

Walking through the winding streets of the tiny village, I loved every minute of their twilight performance.

It was hilarious, magical and unforgettable theater!

My only regret was that during the several requests for audience participation, I was too embarrassed by clumsy francaise to volunteer.

On the Compagnie Née au Vent website are these words from the beloved author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:

“Make the dream devour your life and that life does not devour your dream”

Next summer, I promise to improve my French and to raise my hand to volunteer once invited to “send in the American clown!” C’est moi!

Grub Guide: How To Celebrate Bastille Day 2019 in NYC

Nine distinctly français ways to observe French Independence Day.

Whether you love France for that nice assist in the Revolutionary War or because you simply love French food and culture, Bastille Day is when to show it. This weekend, New Yorkers are invited to partake in plenty of Stateside festivities, including pétanque tournaments, dance parties, food festivals, and even a French-themed wine-and-cheese tasting, all in honor of the 230th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille. Here’s how to make the most of Bastille Day 2019 in New York City.

Eat your way through the city’s French restaurants
Starting today and going through July 21, New Yorkers are invited to grab some very affordable meals at the city’s many, many French restaurants. Dining options range from $18 for an amuse-bouche plus a drink up to a $190 prix fixe dinner for two with a bottle of wine. Participating restaurants include Petite BoucherieSt. Tropez Wine BarBistrot Leo, and 18 other local eateries. Check out the whole list here.

Party like you’re in Provence — in Cobble Hill
Of all Brooklyn neighborhoods, Cobble Hill would seem to be le plus français. To wit: Bar Tabac’s yearly fête in observance of Bastille Day, featuring live music, food and wine, and a perennially hard-fought pétanque tournament. Festivities begin at 10 a.m. and last until sunset.

… Or on the Upper West Side
On Saturday, July 13, drop by Cafe du Soleil for a special menu featuring Provençal delights, live music, and a pétanque tournament with a $55 buy-in, which includes a bottle of rosé. So even if you lose, you win.

Drink you way through the day at Jacques Brasserie
Fun fact: On Bastille Day in France, fire stations throughout the country host some of the best parties. Unfortunately, the FDNY isn’t hip to the situation, so your next-best bet is to head to Jacques Brasserie on the Upper East Side for a boozy party featuring multiple renditions of “La Marseillaise,” merguez-and-harissa baguette sandwiches, brochette skewers, and three specialty cocktails: Lillet spritzes; the refreshing Jacques 75 with gin, cucumber, lime juice, and Champagne; and Bal des Pompiers with Ricard, Angostura bitters, simple syrup, club soda, and an orange slice.

Take in some French (and French diaspora) classical music in Van Cortlandt Park
What better way to spend Bastille Day than with a bottle of wine, some Brie, and an outdoor concert? On Sunday, the Bronx Arts Ensemble will host a small show in Van Cortlandt Park, featuring a performance of Maurice Ravel’s only string quartet (which some might recognize from the opening scenes of The Royal Tenenbaums) as well as a guitar composition by Haitian composer Frantz Casséus and revolutionary composer Germaine Tailleferre’s String Quartet. The performance starts at 2 p.m. in the park’s Rockwood Circle.

Attend a French-themed wine-and-cheese pairing at Murray’s
Those looking to celebrate Bastille Day and learn a few new things in the process will want to drop by Murray’s Cheese for a 90-minute romp through French-fromage history. On Sunday, the shop’s cheesemongers will host a French-cheese tasting with wine pairings. Grab tickets ($90) here.

Go on a study-abroad trip without ever leaving the city
For more than two decades, the French Institute: Alliance Française has hosted the city’s most over-the-top Bastille Day celebration, and 2019 is no exception. On Sunday, the organization will once again take over three blocks of 60th Street, from Fifth Avenue to Lexington Avenue, for a daylong celebration complete with a Champagne, cocktail, and jazz party in the institute’s Sky Room, a screening of the 2017 hit film C’est la Vie, a French market featuring 60 vendors, and four uninterrupted hours of live music. The event itself is free, but some of the activities require tickets, which you can find here.

Order a box of religieuses from Dominique Ansel Bakery
If you’re going to celebrate Bastille Day, it might as well be with one of the city’s most famous French pâtissiers. From July 12 through the 14th, both locations of Dominique Ansel’s bakeries will be selling religieuses, or double-decker cream puffs, filled with Nutella cream and outfitted with a striped shirt and marshmallow beret, for $8 each. Grab one — or a half-dozen, if you’re feeling particularly inspired by the occasion.

Get dressed up and dance the night away with the Maison de Oui. 
On Saturday, Bushwick’s House of Yes will become something like a modern Moulin Rouge, with guests encouraged — nay, required — to dress up for the occasion in their most flamboyant outfits. That means rouged cheeks, powdered wigs, and other let-them-eat-cake wear. There will be Champagne, a French-kissing booth, some cancan dancing, and all manner of debauchery. Admission is free before midnight with RSVP and ticket prices going up to $35 after that.

Source: Grub Guide: How To Celebrate Bastille Day 2019 in NYC

As families flee Paris, fingers point at Airbnb

Paris (AFP) – The bells will ring for the last time this week at Vaugirard elementary school in central Paris, the latest school in the city to close as spiralling property prices drive families out of the capital.

Just 51 students were enrolled this year at Vaugirard, a stark illustration of the steady decline in numbers at many schools in central Paris which some parents and teachers blame on the surge of home-renting giant Airbnb.

“The centre of Paris is basically becoming a vast Airbnb hotel, and there are fewer and fewer residents,” Jean-Jacques Renard, vice president of the FCPE parents’ association, told AFP. Continue reading “As families flee Paris, fingers point at Airbnb”