Paris Jazz Clubs: We'll Always Have Paris

Paris Jazz Clubs
We'll Always Have Paris

by Mike Zwerin

copyright © 2006 Mike Zwerin

Paris is not New Orleans or New York, or Chicago for that matter, but where to go to listen to jazz in Paris remains of more than local interest.

The city has been a major splice into the genealogy of the music going back to Django Reinhardt. Jazz was a metaphor for freedom during the German occupation. The Existentialists and the African-American musicians in the caves on the Left Bank made Paris Europe's post-war capital of jazz. Although Amsterdam may be more creative these days, and Barcelona is getting more important, let's just say we'll always have Paris.

Jazz is hand-made music. It's not cheap to witness. Being one of a relatively small number of people who are close to musicians improvising in an intimate room in the center of the city is a privilege. Admission to clubs is generally between 15-25 euros per person — depending on the attraction, and the day of the week, and it may or may not include the first drink. Sometimes there is a cover charge that adds up to about the same thing. Either way, you will probably also want to buy a beer at the bar to help pay the musicians.

The following are all open six or seven nights a week, and they are all centrally located.

  • 7 LEZARDS, 10 Rue des Rosiers, 75004. In the Marais, across the street from Goldenberg's restaurant, profit is obviously not the only aim of this cozy tea room/bar, restaurant, and cute downstairs concert space. It may be the friendliest club in town — jazz clubs in Paris tend to be friendlier than in New York. You may not know the names of the mostly French, mostly struggling, musicians who work here, but the programming is such that the odds on hearing worthwhile music are in your favor.
  • SUNSIDE/SUNSET, 60 Rue des Lombards, 75001. A duplex club on a jumping walking street a five-minute walk from Place Chatelet. The street-level Sunside, which features acoustic jazz, has good acoustics, and is attractively decorated and well ventilated. Although French musicians whose names you do not know have by now learned to play better jazz than you would have ever imagined in the old days, the French public still seems to prefer Americans. The Sunside usually does better business with Jason Moran, Robert Glasper, Ricky Ford, Bill Carrothers, Lee Konitz, the all-star group Quest, and so forth. Downstairs, the Sunset features mostly French, mostly electric jazz.
  • NEW MORNING, 7-9 Rue des Petits-Ecuries, 75010. A cabaret club holding more than 300 people comfortably, this would be the most important jazz club in Paris if it did not also program important world music. Which makes it one of the most important music venues in the world. The program for December and January, for example, includes the American blues singer Eric Bibb, the wonderful Venezuelan salsa band Orlando Poleo Y La Orchestra Chaworo, the reborn British rock group Soft Machine, the Argentine jazz band Di Giusto Y Camerata Ambigua, the good Italian trumpeter Flavio Boltro, and the avant-garde Swiss "Maximum Music" band Braffoesterrohrer.
  • DUC DES LOMBARDS, 42 Rue des Lombards, 75001. Just down the walking street from the Sunside/Sunset, a tight little club with the bandstand in the middle, and a mural of John Coltrane on the outside, which presents mostly world-class French jazz — Daniel Humair, Franck Amsallem, Olivier Temime, and Ren&3acute; Urtreger, for example. Rumor has it it's for sale. There are often end-of-the-empire rumors of one kind or another on the often shaky jazz club circuit.
  • FRANC PINOT: 1, Quai de Bourbon, 75004: The stone walls of the three-level vertical cave on a picturesque corner of the historic Isle Saint-Louis are — you better know it — old. The music is mostly straight-ahead bebop by people — Sarah Morrow, Christian Escoudé, Xavier Richardeau's "Groove Affair" — who know how to play.
  • LE PETIT JOURNAL MONTPARNASSE, 13 Rue du Commandant-Mouchotte, 75014. A large, low-ceilinged room well-padded with booths in which you can dine (reservations recommended) and listen to major French attractions such as Manu Dibango, Claude Bolling, and Michel Leeb.
  • CAVEAU DE LA HUCHETTE, 5 Rue de la Huchette, 75005, and LE PETIT JOURNAL SAINT-MICHEL: 71 Boulevard Saint-Michel, 75005. New Orleans jazz is alive and well in the fifth arrondisement.
  • JAZZ CLUB LIONEL HAMPTON, THE MERIDIEN HOTEL, 81 Boulevard Gouvion Saint-Cyr, 75017: Currently celebrating its 30th anniversary, this sprawling, streamlined club has in the past presented the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and Dee Dee Bridgewater, but no longer. What's left is basically jazz for tourists.
  • THE SWAN BAR, 165 Boulevard Montparnasse, 75006. Programming is, you might say, relaxed. You never know what to expect, but the combos in this American-style piano bar will be pianissimo — neighbor trouble — as well as fun to listen to. (No website) tel: 01- 4427-0584


Mike Zwerin lives in Paris and is the jazz columnist for Bloomberg News.


C o m m e n t s

jazz 1 of 3
jim bernardini September 11, 07

like your style, informative, with humour, and no pretentious waffle, keep up the good work, well done, all the best, from a die- hard jazzer, who adores coltrane, hank mobley, horace silver, maynard, charlie ventura, brubeck, charlie shavers.sonny stitt, art blakey, buddy rich, dizzy, oscar peterson, joe henderson, rollins, etc, etc, etc.

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