Sebastian writes: This is a three-part report.
- First (I still can’t quite believe it…!) the story of how I came to be invited on the three-day “Jazz Export Days” visit.
- Second, some thoughts on the eight band showcases.
- Third, mini-reviews of the severely limited number of festival concerts I was able to attend.
“Veinards!” (lucky so-and-so’s) was how a commenter on Facebook described us. We were participants in something of an experiment, the first try-out of a new venture called Jazz Export Days, organized by a partnership of the Centre National de Musique and the Festival of Jazz Sous Les Pommiers – this year was festival’s 42nd edition.
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The CNM, a new organisation started in 2020, when it incorporated the Bureau Export, has. as the first of its twelve missions, this:
“to foster the international development of the music and light entertainment sector by accompanying and supporting the export of French productions, the dissemination of works and the mobility of artists.”
And that is exactly what “Jazz Export Days” was all about. So a three-day programme had been put in place, mainly for festival and venue programmers from all over the world, with ample opportunity for them to meet French artists, bookers and agents. Plus there were four of us writing about the event.
The first major event on our programme was a special concert and private tour of the Abbaye de Mont St-Michel, currently “en fëte” in celebration of its millennium. The main concert was by the stellar duo of Emile Parisien and Vincent Peirani, in the magnificent nave of the abbey, plus two wonderful “musical surprises”, one before it and one after it, in the form of pop-up solo performances by Leila Martial in areas of the abbey rarely open to the public: a walk-round performance in the atmospheric cloister, and, much later, a theatre-piece based on JS Bach and a collection of tuned bottles. These were magical, unique experiences. There is no point in trying to deny it: “Veinards” is exactly what we all were.
One very sad irony indeed is that no programmers from the closest country to this corner of France, namely the UK, had seen fit to accept the invitation (some had definitely been approached). One of the tour party looked wistfully out at Jersey (60km away) as he made the point to me.
I was surprised (but obviously thrilled) to be invited. Other takers for what was being called “exclusive immersion in the current French jazz landscape” had come from far and wide, (Australia… Indonesia… South Korea….Argentina and Brazil…..) and every single attendee whom I chatted to was absolutely loving it. The CNM team was rolling up its collective sleeve and herding us all around brilliantly. And to say we were given a sample of the culinary delights with which the local Manchots/ (or are they Manchois?) regale themselves…is a severe understatement.
After the first, very special event, we moved to the area around the festival town of Coutances. There were several meetings, eight showcase concerts plus the chance to visit concerts in the main festival programme…and – such is the joined-up way in which the French jazz scene operates – the jazz team from the national radio station France-Musique, led by that doyen of broadcasters – and maître absolu of the groaning pun – Alex Dutilh, was also on hand to introduce the public concerts and showcases.
I got chatting to some audience members who were there for the afternoon showcases, and was staggered how passionate and knowledgeable they are about the whole scene. They knew what every band was about, and were all regular listeners to France-musique’s daily jazz output.
2) THE EIGHT ‘JAZZ EXPORT DAYS’ SHOWCASES
Tuesday : Nout / Laurent Bardainne & Tigre d’eau douce / Théo Girard trio / Ishkero
Wednesday: Red Desert Orchestra / Rouge / Camille Bertault 5tet / Arnaud Dolmen
COMMENT: These bands had been chosen from an open selection process, and were given quite short showcase slots, no more than 35 minutes on stage in the “Magic Mirrors” marquee.
I thought the stronger selection was the Wednesday bands, but that also comes from the thought that quite a few of these are artists who are fully “emerged” and being run by bandleaders quite capable of inspiring and leading their groups through a full concert. I went to the premiere of Eve Risser’s Red Desert Orchestra in 2021 (REVIEW) and this session was too short to get a proper feel for the dramaturgy this group can manage, and what a gentle, supportive yet immensely effective bandleader is.
I was also very taken by the group led by Arnaud Dolmen, based around a superb partnership with pianist Leonardo Montana just gets better every time I hear it, either on record or live.
And there were more seriously good drumming antics from the Argentinian Minino Garay, who seemed like an ideal foil for Camille Bertault, who presented a wide-ranging and highly appealing set. She is an incredible live-wire performer, and was far more impressive here in the live situation than on her latest CD Bonjour mon amour (Vita).
There were other, more reflective bands, and they had a harder job to connect in this circus tent. The interplay of bassist Theo Girard and trumpeter Antoine Berjeaut, who have been close musical mates for more than a decade, would come across better in more intimate surroundings. Madeleine Cazenave‘s trio “Rouge” was also at the quieter, more reflective end of the spectrum.
3) A HANDFUL OF JSLP FESTIVAL CONCERTS.
The JSLP festival runs for more than a week, so in two days one could do no more than scratch the surface.
Fidel Fourneyron Brass Band . The trombonist is another of the golden generation of musicians born in the early 1980s. This project was with a trio of very fine brass players, and it was their collective sound, with Fourneyron in the middle of the texture, which continued to draw my ears in. A lot of latitude was given to the synth player… I wondered about that. The drummer is Reunion-born Heloise Divilly who is a force for good. This was the last event of Fourneyron’s three year artist residency at the festival.
Renaud Garcia-Fons’ “Le Souffle des Cordes”. This is an octet project, and for me the opportunity to hear Garcia-Fons after a huge gap was to be savoured. He has defined for himself what a bass can do. And his sidemen were extraordinary, in particular the kemenche/ lyra player, whose contribution to the “ Souffle des Cordes” album is glorious. Less evident on the record, but stunning on stage was the Qanun / plucked dulcimer player Serkan Mesut Halili (website)
Youn Sun Nah with guests: The Korean-born singer whose following in France is massive brought in another member of what I want to call the golden generation Airelle Besson who was a quite magnificent guest soloist on trumpet. Youn Sun Nah herself presents us (she always has) with the very strange contrast of a timid young speaking voice and a big singing presence which seems increasingly and irresistibly drawn to Bonnie Raitt-type earthy soulfulness. No quibbles from the willing audience: she absolutely had a full house on her side.
Selene Saint-Aime. Whereas the early 80s born golden generation were constrained by their showcase slots, the challenge of doing – and shaping – a full length set seemed to present a challenge for vocalist/bassist Sélène Saint-Aimé. I expect that will be quickly fixed.
Pierrick Pedron and Gonzalo Rubalcaba Duo : There was one moment from this concert which I know is going to stay indelibly in my mind. A solo by Rubalcaba on Jackie McLean’s “Five Will Get You Ten” from the 1961 album A Fickle Sonance, a tune doubly credited to both Monk and Sonny Clark. This was the clearest, most blazing, authentic, austere thing I heard all week. It was both straight from the heart and head, and also hewn out of granite. Just unbelievable. Thank you! I hope it was recorded!