Le Jazz Chaud is Alive and Well in Paris
On the first day of school in Paris for our children, we went out for coffee with some other parents. One of them said, “I have a spare ticket to the Richard Thompson show tonight. Does anybody want to go with me?” Seeing as I was new to the school and all, I waited for a full half-second before blurting out, “me, me, pick me, I love Richard Thompson.” (note: if you have never heard of Richard Thompson, run, don’t walk, and purchase the CD, “Shoot Out The Lights”)
We met at the Belleville metro station, which is in the 20th arrondisement, across town and firmly on the other side of the tracks from our staid and self-satisfied 16th arr neighborhood. My immensely entertaining companion was an English actor who works in Paris (in French) under the moniker Mr. Pomfrit.
Our destination after stopping at the lovely home of yet another English actor for a few margaritas to fortify us along the way â€“ was a place called La Java. The directions to get to La Java are as follows â€“ get out at the Belleville metro stop, where you are surrounded by swarms of young men selling corn on the cob that they roast over small charcoal stoves. Walk until you reach the Turkish hookah parlor, turn right and head down a dark tunnel under the collective stares and smoke of the hookah clientele. La Java is at the end of the tunnel down an unlit stairway â€“ you can’t miss it.
The low-ceilinged room was packed with perhaps 200 people sweating in the late September heat and doing their best to heat the room even further by simultaneously smoking a similar number of foul filter-less cigarettes. And of course none of that mattered, because not 30 feet away across the fragrant crowd was Richard Thompson belting out an acoustic set with incandescent fingers.
Remember the Clint Eastwood film, “Round Midnight?” The audience was transported, as only music can, to some shared place in the human psyche which must be almost exactly as old as consciousness itself, perfectly tuned to the music of the moment.