MASTER CLASS AND SHOW DAY, our subsequent radio interview and article in La Voix du Nord, and forecast for next year
June 1: I’ve been up all night. In the Frankfurt (yes, Germany) airport waiting for my connecting flight to Los Angeles. Boarded the first flight in Paris this morning at 6:05. When you are on a frequent flyer ticket you can’t always choose. Especially if you wait till the last minute (apparently 6 weeks ahead is the last minute) like some people do.
It is already hard to believe that I said a tearful goodbye to Albin and his parents on the train platform yesterday at noon in Lille. Candace said one just before me; she is flying home to San Francisco from London today and I am flying to Los Angeles from Paris (via Frankfurt).
I enjoyed a last day and evening in Paris yesterday, and got to briefly see a San Francisco friend who moved back to France with her boyfriend, who has now taught her to edit video on Final Cut Pro. She’s making a living along with him as a freelance editor and having a ball of it. They want to move to New York in a year. Talk about getting around.
I crawled a few last venues in Paris yesterday. Went to a show at Baiser Salé (Salty Kiss), and then to one at Le Petit Journal de St. Michel. Stopped by Les Trois Baudets in Montmartre to deliver a press kit and Archipel (Fazioli piano) one more time, managing to actually meet one of the programming guys even after he tried to discourage me on the phone. Was proud of myself for not being put off and then he turned out to be a sweetheart. Gave me the two-cheek kiss after 5 minutes. Go figure.
Le Petit Journal de St. Michel is another tiny oddly-shaped, charming old place, with an upright piano with the front removed. It serves (only) a prix fixe dinner, which includes the music charge (44 euros). Drinks and coffee are extra so it is not a cheap deal. The music last night was ONE pianist, FABULOUS, unamplified, and the most attentive audience I ever saw among people who are eating dinner. Great wait staff, too. Met the owner afterward; he’s been there for something like 30 years. I have seen photos in which some of the tables are removed to make room for other players. Still, a very tiny venue. It is down a few stairs but not a “cave.”
Baiser Salé also has a piano, but it wasn’t played in the set I saw last night. Looks like an upright that faces the stage left side wall of the stage so that the pianist’s back is to the rest of the musicians. That doesn’t work for my band and who knows if they’d move it. Cover charge is 15 Euros and my vodka tonic was 10 euros. Music was fine; I guess you’d call it blues or rockabilly or something. The guy was singing in almost perfect English and also in French and speaking very casually to the audience in French. Was hard to tell if he was a native English speaker or not. Seemed to have brought his own audience.
The rooms all seem to hold under 100 people, sometimes way under.
Les Trois Baudets looked immense, however, although I could not get in to the main area, as it was too early in the afternoon (or because it was Monday.)
Back to MAY 22, the day of our MASTER CLASS and SHOW in Lille.
I’ve never lived in France, although I have been there more times than I can count, over the years. Each time I go my French brain gets better and better the longer I stay and talk, then it recedes until the next time. With Italian, I think because I lived there for 5 years, it doesn’t really go away ever, and pops back in a few hours of talking instead of several days.
Well, by the time we hit May 22 I had been in France for almost a week and I was feeling spunky. They had given me a translator, a 16-year old young man, who was fluent and also a music student, so he’d have some good vocabulary at his fingertips. Not really knowing at all how it would go or what I would say, I decided to go for it in French and just use the young man as a live dictionary. I was lucky also, that several of the students (all adults) had some knowledge of English. I was happy that I had pursued a meeting with the vocal teacher who had hand-picked them for the class, as she had been helpful in briefing me, and I also had the registration form that each one had filled out. I had chosen the only student with theater experience to be the one to lead off when we started individual work, which was very useful. Alex was unafraid of my direction and came with some knowledge of the concepts I was using about connecting to the audience, motivating the song, and so forth. Each of the students made a noticeable change in the 15-minute coaching that he or she received; they all were open and took the coaching; I was pretty impressed, and I was able to basically coach the students the way I always do, BUT IN FRENCH.
We began with a warmup and then an exercise on counting off for a band or pianist in different grooves and tempi. I used Honeysuckle Rose for this, as it was on the list of songs that the vocal teacher had given me as songs they all should know. (with American students I usually use Bye Bye Blackbird.) They counted off and sang the first A section in slow swing, fast swing, jazz waltz and bossa nova. It was also a very good ice breaker. We took a group picture at the end, all saying CHANTEZ!
The brasserie across from the school was so kind to set a table for a group and we went to lunch with John Florencio (who did a fabulous job following the singers and transposing when necessary, impressing them mightily), Candace, some students, some of the musicians from our band, the top school administrators, Pierre Suffys, and others. Both he and the jazz department head, who audited the class and stayed for the whole three hours, agreed it was a success, as did the students. It was a nice chance to get to know each other a bit, and the school director brought up the subject of next year.
After lunch, we had the mammoth rehearsal, but we could not start on time because some of the sound equipment had not arrived with one of the sound techs. We started late and went late. It was the first and only time the entire band had rehearsed together. I thought Albin, who was music directing (and taking an enormous amount of responsibility) had planned to just rehearse the TWIST part of the concert in this afternoon day-of rehearsal but he wanted to rehearse his Musiconoclast’ Orchestra, too. The task was daunting. We couldn’t hear each other. The stage was large and there were lots of us. The band was dragging in some numbers. I was fine having Albin count off each number, but it turned out there were some he wanted me to do. The players were all good but some were better readers than others. I found myself really conducting with hand gestures, giving cutoffs, slowing down the band when I needed to at the end of songs. I ended up sort of co-conducting in the final concert later that evening. It was necessary and I found I was prepared for it. It came together much better than the rehearsal and we did well.
Between the rehearsal and the start of the concert, Albin’s mother, Severine, with some assistance, had made and brought food for 30 people. Albin’s father, Pierre, ran the sound. Albin’s brother, Tristan, ran one of the video cameras. There is nothing this family cannot do, and do with energy, zest and good will. They are theater people. We told Tristan what we were looking for in the video. Even though there was another camera shooting “B roll” we wanted him to shoot as if he were the only camera, taking close-ups, full band, panning to solos, etc. He did exactly what we needed; a wonderful job. And when I saw it, I saw that Pierre did a wonderful job on the lights, too, despite a light board with a mind of it’s own. I didn’t even realize all that he was doing while I was on stage; he really made it look good.
The world premiere of Candace’s new piece, Come Back to California, went very well, despite the fact that we had finished it just two days before and had little time to rehearse. The title is a response to Albin’s solo piece, which he wrote (and played in the concert) as an homage to the Immigration agent in Philadelphia who told him never to come back to California. WHY?? You look at him and you know he is sweet.
The theater was not full. They had publicized to the school but not so much to the community at large, although 3 things did appear in the paper. It is, once again, the case of having to prove yourself the first time for people to know that you are good and worthy of promotion.
Now we have done that. I received a compliment from the Deputy Mayor, who attended. There is talk of a weekend-long jazz festival next year and a special project, which I won’t go into until I know it is happening.
The experience with all the musicians, the theater company lead by Albin’s parents, Albin himself, the students in the class, the admin of the music school, it was all immense.
A footnote on Los Angeles, June 4: I had an unexpectedly super experience with the set I did last night at the Hollywood Studio Bar & Grill. The jazz series and open mics there have been curated by Dolores Petersen for the last three years; she is a promoter and she just knows everybody in the business because she’s been around. She’s got a roster of musicians and singers, the venue has sound, a raised bandstand, a grand piano, she’s even got a spotlight with color for the featured singers. There’s a full bar and food service. Dolores booked the band, which consisted of Karen Hernandez on piano, Tony Dumas on bass and Ralph Penland on drums.
I flew in from France. NO REHEARSAL, OK? NONE. I’m a girl who rehearses and I wondered how it would go. In the end, spoke to Karen on the phone a couple of times (once from Newark Airport in New York on my way out of the country), and basically just showed her my charts before the set for about 15 minutes. I brought charts for bass and drums but did not go over them with the guys. OK, I picked standards on purpose with no funny arrangements but they read it all right off in superb style because they are complete lifelong pros that have played with EVERYBODY. This is the beauty of being in L.A. or New York; the talent pool is SOOOOOOO deep. I will say that I had an absolute blast because the band was so solid that I felt free to stretch out. I will also say that the situation made me rise to the occasion and really lead the band. I counted off the tempi, gave cutoffs, conducted transitions while staying in the song performance. Thank you, Dolores!!
I did send out some announcements to my list but did not do the massive audience wrangling I would have done had I been in the country. It is tough to get an audience in L.A. The area is very spread out, the traffic is terrible, there is a lot going on, and if you are an out-of-towner and don’t know many people it is very challenging. Singing the set with the trio was perfect for me, and I was happy that quite a few friends DID show up, which was lovely, in addition to, miracle of miracles, someone who had signed my mailing list some time ago, and who is a cabaret aficionado. He apparently READS the emails and follows me. AMAZING.
Here’s a shot of us onstage in Lille, with Albin and some of the band. We had 12 guys on stage! Look out, Pink Martini!