Thursday, 30 August 2012

Marcel Zanini et al., Le Petit Journal Montparnasse, Paris. 31st August

So this is my first post regarding a jazz show, I've always wanted to describe some of the amazing jazz shows I've been to in the past but I ended up throwing the ideas away simply because it seemed so daunting to try and sum up a jazz performance in words. Most music is pretty tough to describe nonetheless, but jazz is another level of complicated for me.

I was passing Le Petit Journal en-route to home. I tried arriving without any expectations because I know from previous experiences that going to jazz gigs in a place like LPJ can be really expensive. Fortunately I managed to squeeze in for free for the last half of their set, and thank fuck, there's no way I'm paying 25 euros for 2 hours of music. I got myself a glass of wine and sat in the back/middle somewhere, I had to move seats because a middle-aged couple in front of me kept making out and groping each other (which I don't blame them for, hell if I'd been there with a girl I would've been all over her) and it was distracting me from the music. Marcel Zanini himself has such a stand-out image; a short shuffling old man with a big shining bald head and thin grey wisps of hair lining the area above his ears, combined with round-rimmed glasses, a striking thick vein on the right side of his forehead and a really sincere crimpy happy-old-man smile.
The way they all manipulated sound with their instruments was exhilarating, I wished to god all the people sitting in front of me could just throw all their tables in the air and start dancing. I was torturing myself by sitting in that chair the whole time, I really wanted to get up and dance. There was a pretty girl sitting on the side who I tried giving the eye to every now and then but it was futile seeing as she was sitting with her boyfriend, and I'm not much for trying to pry girls from their men anyway. An older couple did get up to dance for a couple of numbers which was heart-warming, and no-one snickered or gave any negative vibes whatsoever, the room was all love the moment the music began. To the right of the stage there was a man with a name on the back of his shirt (presumably his own) who was painting a live portrait of the stage as he saw it, and considering he'd made it during their set, it really blew my mind.

The band set-up included a drum-set, double bass, trombone, piano and Marcel Zanini, who switched from clarinet to saxophone as well as singing. And for a few numbers a middle aged blonde woman came on stage from the crowd to sing and skat a while. She was exceptional, her voice reminded me of a trumpet at times, the way she sang it was as if she was blowing sounds out of her mouth, and when that happened her mouth seemed to be shaped in a very horizontal way, like a sideways O.

The music was so controlling, when they played fast numbers my feet and hands went nuts, slapping and jumping to their own rhythm, I wasn't even aware if they were moving in time, I felt no control over them any more. Even the painter had lost it, I noticed he was beating his brushes against the canvas without a care for what it might have been doing to his painting. I just wished everyone would have started dancing. Movies and books really spoil you on these occasions. It was during these moments, when I wasn't thinking about dancing, that I had the strongest desire to go skating (skateboarding), to slide and pop and revert around completely spontaneously with no direction at all. The great thing about skating, Paris and jazz is that you can go wherever you want with no direction and never stop because the streets are smooth and endless.

The slow songs were just as compelling. I was feeling exhausted from doing things all day so when these songs happened I simply closed my eyes and let the sounds roll in. Zanini's voice is so relaxing, you can feel his old vocal chords straining under the tension but it gives his voice an even better quality, like when you sit in an old piece of furniture and it takes a bit of time for your body to fit in but when you get comfortable no IKEA chair can compare. I was close to tears for one of his songs, simply because of the age in his voice and the purity of his clarinet notes, they swung into my body like waves, knocking my eyelids down and pushing my head back until it reached the backrest of my chair. I had the strongest urge to slow dance with a girl, just to simply move to the rhythm a step at a time. The bassist was on point, I don't remember seeing him look down at his instrument once. The drummer was incredible, during his solos he would keep the hi-hat skimming with his foot while his hands went nuts and the whole time the stage lights shone brilliantly off his bald head. The trombone player was great, its a really crazy instrument when you come to think about it, you really need to know the thing well in order to get that sound JUST right. The way he did it was very smooth and complex, jumping from his to lows without a falter. I didn't pay much attention to the pianist but he did his job well, its just a shame he was sitting far on the right because I couldnt really see him without craning my neck past the love-birds.

I left soon after the set ended, on the way out I shook Zanini's hand and felt very nervous whilst doing so. His hand felt soft and fragile in mine, and he almost seemed a little taken aback when I thanked him. Riding the bike back I could feel the cool night breeze against my face and I couldn't get the song from Ethan Fowler's Visual Sound part out of my head. Oh well, its still a damn good song.


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