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REPORT: Fiona Monbet Quartet and Stéphane Kerecki Quartet at Jazz Sur Seine Showcase Night in Paris

Fiona Monbet with Damien Varaillon (left)
and Laurent Derache (right)
iPhone snap by Sebastian Scotney

Fiona Monbet Quartet and Stéphane Kerecki Quartet
(Jazz Sur Seine Showcases, Sunset and Duc des Lombards, Paris, 16 October 2018. Report by Sebastian Scotney)

The Jazz sur Seine showcase night is an annual event where Paris Jazz Club, the publicly funded umbrella marketing organization for almost all the jazz clubs in the Paris region, is en fête and en gloire. All the clubs around the rue des Lombards near Les Halles are free-admission for the night, and the whole area teems and throngs with people.

Nightfall in the rue des Lombards on the showcase night
iPhone snap by Sebastian Scotney
Last year I had the amazing fortune to get the very best seat in the house in the Duc des Lombards for Didier Lockwood. The violinist was driving and motivating a young trio who had come up through the ranks of his music school (REVIEWED). He was on superb, dominant, unforgettable form.

But what a difference a year makes. His utterly unexpected death in February at the age of just 62 sent a shock-wave right through the French jazz community. It was somehow fitting that last night the first of the showcases in the basement club Sunset was by a quartet led by his “spiritual daughter”, the violinist Fiona Monbet.

I have heard her once before, performing with the Man Overboard quintet in rural Cambridgeshire in 2016 (REVIEWED). This was an opportunity to hear her on her own terms. She has phenomenal violin technique (Thomas Gould is a huge fan and it was he who originally made me aware of her).

Whether at the opening of the gig, or on the album’s first tune Valse (waltz), the listener is dropped straight into familiar Grappelli/Lockwood territory. The tune could be a cousin of Toots Thielemans’ Bluesette, and Monbet has all the freedom, the joy, the delightfully free attack and delay, and surprise of those great players. But there is also more. What emerged last night is a deep knowledge of both Irish folk (her mother is Irish) and Middle-Eastern leanings too. There is a sense of her being stylistically free, not in the sense of searching or exploring, but that she has many different fully-formed characters to reveal.

The eclectic mix suits guitarist Sébastien Giniaux too. He is a fine player who is really capable of holding attention. And in Laurent Derache she also has as melodic sparring partner an extremely versatile accordionist capable of adding colour, sharing a melodic line, or of stepping forward as soloist. Damien Varaillon is a subtle, less-is-more, completely supportive bassist. Varaillon and Monbet herself were the only permanent elements to feature on both the CD and this showcase. And what that brought to the fore was quite how strong her musical presence is.

Things are happening. She has now been signed by an effective manager. She has just released an album Contrebande. This was a very fine gig which created a buzz, and it is not difficult to predict that Monbet’s star is about to rise, and very substantially.

A packed Duc des Lombards waiting for
Stéphane Kerecki’s quartet 
I also attended another of the showcases, the quartet of bassist Stéphane Kerecki. I reviewed an album way back in 2010 (LINK) and wrote that I found his “tuning, presence and sound fabulous”. He is a decisive yet sensitive bass player and that ethos ran through his band. Saxophonist Julian Lourau (on Kerecki’s new album the saxophone is the more extrovert Emile Parisien) also has that ideal combination of power and delicacy. Drummer Fabrice Moreau clearly understands and complements Kerecki’s powerful subtlety, leaving pianist/keyboardist Jozef Dumoulin to inhabit the anarchic/ free electron/ questioner role. Perhaps every band needs one, and Dumoulin’s presence is an assurance that surprises are in store.

Coming away from an evening, I can’t avoid the wish that our London scene, which has more going on, could be a little more joined up, and thereby a little more… Parisian.

Jazz sur Seine continues until 27 October

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