“Art is an abstraction. Unfortunately we’re becoming completely misunderstood.”
—Paul Gauguin to Vincent Van Gogh
“… I don’t need friends with shit all over their faces.”
—From the short French film Rubbish (2007)
So folks, Paris is winding down. Countdown ten days until we return to the Apple even though you’ll be reading this a month after we are back. Why am I saying this? To use up words and to put things in perspective, why else?
During my last days here I caught and participated in a few more gigs, and I must say that the verdict is still out on some. I think this is the hardest I may have ever worked, doing some twenty-odd gigs in a six-week period in some grueling conditions, and celebrating my birthday in Germany for the first time.
I caught what started out to be a somewhat wobbly show by master cellist Didier Petit, who played three days of solo gigs in a small dark side room in a restaurant where a bowl of soup cost 34€. Yuko and I were hungry, so we stepped out before the gig and ate at Burger King. Wow. We had a whopper of a time there and at Didier’s gig. Wearing black and barefoot as usual, he played and sang in both high and low (hoarse) voices, mixing Asian, classical European, and American melodies. The music fluctuated between melodic and fiercely free as Petit rubbed, kissed, stroked, scratched, twirled, plucked, bowed, and danced with the cello, pushing, pulling, squeezing, coaxing the notes from its body and his. At times he made me think of the greatly missed Tom Cora.
At one point he swung the cello from side to side while chanting a haunting, mournful tune. Between songs he delivered serious and funny raps—judging by the audience’s reaction—but my French still sucks, so I barely understood a thing he said. He also scratched the floor with the bow as well as with the cello. For the second half, Petit picked up what he calls the Cosmocelle, a variation on the French term violoncelle (cello). The Cosmocelle was built by Petit from a cello he had purchased in China. One of his dreams was to play the cello in a zero gravity plane, and when he received the okay he was then denied access to the plane because his instrument was too big. In order to solve the problem, he cut down and reshaped the cello so that he could bring it on the plane.
The plane flew straight up, made a small arc, then flew straight down, causing the folks on board to float around. This was repeated twice. When I asked him how long he actually got to play, he said seventeen seconds during the arcing, while someone held his shoulders steady. The noise from the plane was so loud that the instrument could not be heard, but he said that he at least fulfilled his dream.
The set at the restaurant ended with a gruff vocalized version of the famous Armstrong song “It’s a Wonderful World,” followed by a heart-rending encore of a French ballad. These and other pieces can be found on his new Rogueart release D’ACCORD, which I highly recommend.
The next evening found me at a small bar/cave, called Chat Noir. Yes, there are and have been many Chat Noirs in Paris. Satie played at one on the street where I am staying. I caught drummer Makoto Sato with Jean-Marc Foussat on electronics, jaw harp, and voice, and Aymeric Avice (a new name to me) on trumpet and effects. Like Petit, they started out rocky but ended with two pieces that were exceptional. Foussat also runs FOU Records, which showcases, along with himself, such giants as Joëlle Léandre, Evan Parker, George Lewis, Joe McPhee, and Peter Kowald.
I caught Francois Tusques in quartet with an overbearing, over-directing singer/reciter. They both sucked, though trumpeter Itaru Oki and accordionist Claude Parle had some great moments. This was followed by a big band, led by guitarist Jean-François Pauvros, that played tunes ranging from Ornette to Mingus to Hendrix and so on, plus some free moments. Everything was executed perfectly. Good solos. Good vibes. But the entire affair was very generic, and I wished the entire time I had gone to see my pal drummer Andrew Barker, who was on tour and did three nights in Paris with the monster sax player John Dikeman. I missed them all due to prior commitments. Something I am still crying over.
I also missed Matthew Shipp, John Butcher, and Thomas Lehn because I was in Marseilles doing an intense week of gigs with mighty reed player and dear friend Sabir Mateen. We were joined by pianist, tuba player, and accordionist Simon Seiger. I did, however, get back to Paris in time to catch their recording session. It was a beyond-description session of two long pieces that explored completely new territory and three or four shorter, more “normal” pieces. The CD will be released in a year on Rogueart, and I’m proud to say that hopefully I will write the liners.
Charlemagne Palestine, who played a solo set here while I was in a suburb gigging on Nuit Blanche, has two brilliantly witty shows up in both the Jewish Museum (in conjunction with his Jewish Museum show in New York) and a gallery on Rue de Seine. The museum show is as ethereal as it is schmaltzy, and to use more of C.P.’s lingo, you gotta be meshuggah to have a show like this. There were disco balls spinning around, casting those wonderful little dots of light all over the stone floor, and a sensor-activated tape loop of organ and piano mixed with cantorial chanting. The room was filled with three-headed teddy bears, teddies in chairs, teddies parachuting from the ceiling, a teddy bear altar with two video loops of a rollercoaster plummeting at top speed, and flower-patterned schmattes draped everywhere, as were cut pieces of fabric-like rags. There were giant vats of spools of rope and thread and wool placed in front of the installation. This was as chaotic as it was meditative, and on many levels much more exciting than the New York show.
Well kiddies, my word count is just about up, so see you in New York and keep on listening. I’ll end with this poem for Alexander von Schlippenbach, written in Paris during his solo Monk gig at the DYNAMO club, which was followed by the Joey Baron Quartet.
as the glass fogs up / it’s reflex on the dualist’s hands / the right hand mirroring as touching s(t)ay right emptying into itself / each other / left invisible dense AHHH / rein-bowed bleu rouge vert layback / it’s old fashioned ba(n)ter with self / mid-cross blvd / crème de la MONK & the private life of a near 80 year old musician re-living it self in public as what them musicians often due / dense notes reshaped from out of someone else’s LINGO / flurries as well that now become so personalized reframed / a dynamo inside the vehicle / inside the black walls & caution is only the lack of reflextion / the invisibility of a small lesion of bellyflopitis sex-0-phonics & the ear is its own capacity / interesting still how sound is so handily capped off by the senses & captivatin’ mutations itself is just as much about process as (is)process itself often that process only exists as metaphor w/in the work often it doesn’t exist @ all for several reasons the main being that more often than not PROCESS can not been seen/detected if completely effective or non-existent or read into…brush skin then gone against itself.
Monk on the metro tired / sleepy / thought less / in thought / right here.
Poet/collagist STEVE DALACHINSKY was a long time contributor to the Rail. His book The Final Nite & Other Poems (Ugly Duckling Presse - 2006) won the PEN Oakland National Book Award. His latest CDs are The Fallout of Dreams with Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach (Roguart, 2014), and the book/CD Pretty in the Morning with the French art rock group the Snobs (Bisou Records, 2019). He was a 2014 recipient of a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres. His most recent books include Frozen Heatwave, a collaboration with Yuko Otomo (Luna Bissonte Prods, 2017) and where night and day become onethe french poems (great weather for MEDIA, 2018) which received a 2019 IBPA award in poetry.