Gonzo in Vienne

By Michael Stevenson

“Let me hear your balls, Vienne!”

On June 29, I was among the lucky 7000 concert-goers gathered in Theater Antiques to behold piano man Chilly Gonzales perform at the 2019 Vienne Jazz Festival. Jazz à Vienne has been celebrating the world of jazz since 1981. The festival has a variety of concerts and different stages – the grandest being the Roman theater, built in 1 AD.

As the show started, most of us sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in the arena were fanning ourselves with our programs, as the temps rose over 110 degrees before the sun went down. Chilly, it was not. But the performer nicknamed “Gonzo” cooled the audience with his humor, original songs and an impressive array of piano styles – not strictly jazz, but also blues, classical and his own uniquely “Gonzo” flavorings.

Between songs, Gonzo joked with the audience in both french and english. His french dialect has a Montreal flavor (he was born there). And I detected a slight Brooklynese present in his English – especially when he commanded the audience of clap-a-longs to follow the beat by watching “my fucking foot!” The sweaty crowd in the ancient arena laughed and sang, and most of of us stayed on the beat of his bouncing bedroom slipper.

Gonzales, whose (birth name is Jason Charles Beck, has collaborated with artists Jarvis Cocker, Feist, Peaches, Drake and Daft Punk.

In 2018, Gonzales launched his own music school. According to his Wikipedia entry, “musicians from around the world joined him to study at The Gonzervatory, an 8-day all-expenses-paid residential music performance workshop in Paris. The workshop included coaching sessions with Gonzo, followed by masterclasses from Gonzales’ friends and collaborators.” Cool!

Vienne’s Roman Theatre was built in 40-50AD and seen as the largest in Roman Antiquity

I actually came to see Gozo in Vienne quite by accident. I had purchased tickets to see Camille perform in the “Up Above My Head” collaboration, which was actually the previous night in Vienne, but I had confused dates (as I often do when on a lengthy European vacation.) So while I was quite depressed about screwing-up and missing my favorite French chanteuse Camille, Gonzo pulled me out of my funk with his wonderful show. It’s always great to see someone completely new in concert and to become an immediate fan. C’est moi!

I’d also like to note how helpful the Vienne Tourist office was, as well as the Jazz à Vienne ticket manager, who granted my wife and I free replacement tickets to see the Chilly Gonzales show after I explained how we confused our dates. As has consistently been our experience, the French people were gracious and accommodating to we stumbling and fumbling travelers.

Merci beaucoup, Vienne and Gonzo.

Jeanne Cherhal, a great album in September!

En pleine finition de son nouvel album, qui sortira en septembre, Jeanne Cherhal a dévoilé quelques titres à notre chroniqueuse, dans l’intimité de son propre studio.


It makes the coffee warm up. Jeanne Cherhal receives in her studio as in her living room – that said, I have never seen her living room. The place is cozy, at the end of a dead end, in the 20th arrondissement. Away from traffic and close to Père-Lachaise. Beside other studios, music or audiovisual production. A small room that she rents all year, in which she has installed two pianos (including a Pleyel quarterback), a work table (with computer), a big speaker (which buzze a little), shelves ( design 50).

Cherhal sings as it turns out, without effect and without filter

She settles. Slightly arched. The first song of the future album is also the first one: The Year 40 . Autobiographical text for a woman born in 1978. “She enters with a smile in the year 40 …” For modesty or concern for universality, she forgot the “I” for the benefit of the third person – I do not imagine affected by the Delon syndrome. I listen to her singing, her voice so fine and so right, with light vibrato, has always had the gift of touching me instantly. Cherhal sings as we reveal ourselves, without effect and without filter. The intrinsic power of its form of expression, the song, returns to me in the face; a piece of life and truth delivered in three minutes … I think back to my own 40 years, and I do not know if I smiled. I watch his long fingers slide at the speed of light on the keyboard (what dexterity), his black sneakers do or not pressure on the Pleyel pedals. I have never been so close. Do not tell him, I’m pretty intimidated. I slip a “super” barely audible at the end of the song. Jeanne smiled. I wonder if she, too, she does not have a little chocolate.

Does his song appeal to all the women of his generation? “What is certain is that I have always felt feminist. For two years, everything has moved in society. It’s beautiful what happens. I am very happy to experience this kind of revolution. “  When she speaks, she seems both soft and resolved. Not so fragile, no doubt, that the delicacy of his body could let him think. This woman knows what she wants. In fact, I saw on Instagram that she went to record in Los Angeles … Was it necessary to raise the carbon footprint to this point? “I wanted to work with two musicians who live there. I also wanted a gospel choir and there, there is everywhere. ” Incidentally, I learn that the singer has signed alone arrangements – I will discover later, listening to the pre-CD, they are sumptuous …

“Tonight, I’ll listen to it one last time”

But for now, it’s piano-voice. Again concentrated on her keyboard, Jeanne Cherhal is preparing to play other songs. It makes me promise not to say too much about the topics it addresses … Okay, okay. I will just slip that the intelligence of his writing, definitely able to address the most unlikely subjects, has not finished me. And that the album she is about to finish will be among her most successful. On a sheet hanging on the wall, I recognize the titles of the pieces. In total, the disc will have ten. Release planned on September 20th. “This morning, I asked for some corrections on the mix, but really minimal. And tonight, I’ll listen to it one last time. Logically, I should give the green light for the whole party to mastering. “ This will be the last step before manufacturing. After, no more retouching possible. In other words, she still has work, especially pressure. We’ll have to leave it. A little last before leaving? “I’m going to make you listen to the closing title, A farewell. But I warn you: it may move you. It’s about the burial of Jacques. ”  Jacques Higelin, she adored, and me too. Not even scared, I signal to him to send the music. And I go out upset.

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