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From: Planet Harmonica
Date: 18-Oct-2006 15:00
Subject: Re: [Harp-L] The Best shows I Ever Saw (Long little harp content)
Oooooh ! Nice topic ! May I ?
I'll do it chronologically !
1. JJ Milteau - Paris 1992 : A good friend of mine invited me for my birthday to a Michel Jonasz concert at the Paris, Zenith, a huge 5000 seater. Milteau was the opening act, just him and a jazzy guitar player (JM Kajdan). That night changed a good chunk of my life, in retrospect. Imagine these two guys, with just one spotlight on each of them, playing blues tunes to a 5000 people audience who came to see someone else... Well, after three minutes JJ had everyone laughing, and after ten all the feet around me were stomping, the hands clapping. JJ did the gig very cleverly, halfway between a history of the diatonic harmonica and a show. He managed to draw people into his musical world in a way that I've seen very few artists do. He was encored, which totally amazed me for a first part. That night I bought his Blues Harp album, the next morning I had a method and a diatonic, and the rest is (my personal) history !
2. Morphine - Lyon, 1994 : After a week's holiday in the Alps, we met with a few friends to end our holiday with a prolonged week-end in Lyon. On the thursday night, Morphine was playing and we had our seats. My friend Olivier had made us discover that great rock band, so we weren't gonna miss it. We had the first two albums, knew them by heart already. Looking back, this is probably the first rock concert I went to, and the energy was just stunning. I could feel my innards vibrating to the sound of Dana Colley's baritone sax. The minimalism of the line up allowed for awesome contrasts between quiet moments and wild, furious bouts of energy. I remember Mark Sandman explaining that playing a four string instrument was too complicated which was why his bass only had two (a wonderful understatement of his ability as a musician, when you know the character a bit). I remember being the first to yell Thursday when Sandman asked in broken French which day of the week it was, I remember seeing the fleeting smile on his face. I always wanted to go and see Morphine again, even though their later albums had lost in punch what they had gained in sophistication. I nearly drove down to Paris once to catch a gig and ended up feeling too tired. A few weeks later, I read that Sandman had died on stage in Italy.
3. Buddy Guy - Birmingham (UK) 1996 : This was my first genuine blues gig, just before the release of Buddy's "Real Deal", when he was on the ascent again. I like to think that he was still in a giving mood when on stage, something I have felt less and less over the years, and I've seen Buddy many times. Or maybe it was just all new to me and his gigs are repetitive. Anyway, that night just blew me away. The thing that struck me the most was how, on the slow blues, he would draw the volume down to a whisper ("Make it so funky they can smell it !) and have you straining on the edge of your seat just to hear him, and then suddenly crank the volume to 10 and literally slam you backwards under the sheer power of it all. The band had the full horn section back then, which was a treat. I remember him playing Five Long Years, Feels Like Rain, Love her with a Feeling but there was many more. I became a Buddy Guy addict that day, and even though his latest output hasn't really moved me, I still am in many ways...
4. Ray Brown Trio - Cheltenham (UK) 1996 : I was living and working in Coventry (UK) at the time and most of my friends were students. As a consequence, during school holidays I was really lonely since all of my pals would go back home for a week or two. I'd been introduced to Ray Brown a couple of years earlier when a friend of mine bought me Live at the Concord Jazz Festival for my birthday. Loved that record. Anyway, on a saturday monring, bored as usual, I took the train to Birmingham and hung out for ages in a second hand record shop, I think I got some Count Basie. And then I saw a jazz magazine and as I flipped through the pages, I saw an advert for the Cheltenham Jazz Fest. That same afternoon, Ray Brown was playing there. I jumped on the train and went down there straight away. I remember as the gig was set to begin, this really young guy comes on stage, looking maybe 19, and takes the mic. Introduces Ray Brown. I though he was an usher for the festival. Turned out he was Benny Green, Ray's pianist at the time. Looked young, made your jaw drop when he played. I think it was still Jeff Hamilton on drums although it may have been Greg Hutchinson. The high point of that gig was Manha de Carnaval (Black Orpheus) played solo on the double-bass. Superb and magical. There was no one like Ray Brown.
5. Oscar Peterson - Marciac 1997 : On the summer I went back to live in France, we were vacationing for a week in the South-West and I convinced my future wife to attend the Marciac Jazz Festival for an evening. Oscar Peterson was playing and I really didn't want to miss that. He was already severely diminished, his left hand playing virtually non-existent, but his right was still there, although he tended to play more sentimental than in the hold no barrles 80s records I had discovered him with. NHOP was on bass, with that mellow, supple sound, and Ulf Wakenius on guitar. It was, all in all, a good evening of music even though it wasn't stunning. I guess the sheer presence of this guy who, by all medical accounts should have been lounging on his terrace rather than playing concerts to thousands of people was something. The most intense moment came at the end of the concert. The whole audience stood to their feet and clapped for maybe fifteen minutes non-stop, the implied meaning being that they wanted an encore. Oscar came out again after fifteen minutes in his wheelchair, and you could see that he was pale and drawn-out, but he was wheeled back to the piano, and played a last piece. I still feel a little collective guilt about that. But it was an intense moment...
6. Erik Truffaz Quartet & Nya - Paris (2000) : I'd gotten into Erik Truffaz when Bending New Corners was released, and that combination of jazz, hip-hop groove and slam delivery by Nya really grabbed me. I had seen the band at the New Morning for the CD release party and then acquired The Dawn, but when I saw that they were playing at La Cigale, just next to where I lived, I convinced my wofe to come with me even though it was jazz and she feared it would be too intellectual for her. The sheer musicianship of the band was astounding that night, and the venue magnified it : down below on the floor was the groove crew, dancing to the funky beat of Marcello Giuliani's double bass. In the upper boxes, were the jazz fans, seated and enjoying the music. We even saw French celebrity Henri Salvador a few seats away from us. Striking moments ? I seem to remember a great Friendly Fire and a superb Bending New Corners. Another moment stuck in my mind was long drum solo by Marc Erbetta. I'm not a big fan of drum solos in general, but that one was stunning. Actually, I was stunned even more when, at the end of the solo, my wife stood up and clapped and cheered !!!
7. Bob Brozman, Djeli Moussa Diawara & Takashi Hirayasu - Paris (2000) : Bob Brozman had just released two collaborative records, Ocean Blues with Guinean kora player Djeli Moussa Diawara and Jin Jin with Okinawan shamisen player Takashi Hirayasu. When I saw the triple bill in Paris I got some tickets for me and my then pregnant wife. It was magical evening. A small venue, more string instruments than I'd ever seen on one stage, and a relaxed, humorous atmosphere as only Bob knows how to set. Three sets, first one with Bob and Djeli Moussa. The only common language these two had was Bob's broken French, but they played a light-hearted rather upbeat set with Djeli Moussa singing most of the tunes. The second set was slightly more melancholy affair, most of the tunes being on the quiet side. Takashi was as dicreet as Bob was exhuberant, but they hit a sweet communion spot at one point where you could feel that they had never yet connected on that level. Turned out it was their first time live together. The third set, the three musicians were on the stage. They'd never even played together. I remember a blues-ish tune that went deep deep deep in emotion, and when they finally finished, their was a silent hush in the audience for about twenty seconds... Then the applause thundered ! And to think that my unborn Corentin listened through all this !!!
8. Les Chats Variés - Condat sur Vienne (2001) : When I got down to Condat in October 2001, I'd been doing Planet Harmonica for a couple of years and considered myself knowledgeable on the French harmonica scene. I had vaguely heard of Eric Chafer, knew he was using some sort of altered tuning but that was it. When he and his guitarist pal Francis came on stage to open the 2001 Harmonicales festival, I honestly wasn't expecting much. After a minute of Eric's playing, I was floored. The sound, the fluidity, the melodic lines, the sheer musicality of it all was astounding. After a couple of songs on harmonica, he apologised that their repertoire didn't feature harmonica on every song and switched to acoustic bass. My jaw then dropped to the floor alongside the rest of me. The rest of the music, the lyrics, the world of Francis' songs was superb as well. I remember half an hour into the gig, Brendan Power (who was supposed to be preparing since he was playing next) coming to me in the dark and asking "who IS this guy ?" I couldn't tell him. I met Eric later, and we became good friends (although he's impossible to get hold of) but that first moment of finding such a luminous talent living, as it were, in your backyard, was something I'd never experienced before...
9. The Rhymth Junks - St Aignan sur Cher (2005) : I've been a steady fan of Steven de Bruyn's playing ever since seeing El Fish in Tamines in 1998 or 1999, so I already knew of the Rhythm Junks' and their first album before the gig. Still, the sheer energy and inventiveness of this band amazed me more than ever live. Linking this back to my enjoyment of the relative sparseness of Morphine mentioned above, the absence of any chordal instruments in the Rhythm Junks makes it a unique musical experience. It's driven mostly by bass and drums, expcept when the horn section kicks in, either to create the harmony or support the rhythm. I was shaking my ass the whole gig, it was just awesome. Steven's stage presence is astounding as well, he was jumping up and down, switching harps, using toys and gadgets musically, all the way through. I wanna see them again. And again. And again...
10. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band - Paris (2006) : I was feeling shitty that day when I got to the New Morning just in time to hear the Dirty Dozen Brass Band begin their gig. After a drum+sousaphone+guitar intro, the whole band moved in and jumped into Charlie Dozen. I can remember feeling the grin creep on my face then ! The whole gig was a blast, with a lot of people dancing (in fact, the only time I'd seen that before at the New Morning was Erik Truffaz...) I remember hearing all the songs I wanted to hear, Remember When, Time (I think) and also some other stuff I hadn't heard. I chatted with Jamie McLean, the guitarist, at the intermission. Once they'd finished, the crowd encore for five minutes and then again, same as earlier in the evening, a drums + sousaphone + guitar groove was laid down for Roger Lewis to come and rap as the dirty old man. It was hilarious (and funky). Then they finished the with Ain't Nothing but a Party. What else can you ask for ?