Paris is one of the places in the world where jazz is revered. Many jazz musicians eventually leave America and take up roots in Europe – where they can be respected and make a living. After having lived in New Orleans and experienced some of the best jazz players in the world, I find it troubling that too many of these musicians cannot make a decent living. They get by from gig to gig by playing for the door or a percentage of the drinks for that night and when it’s all done, get screwed by the club owner.
Europe respects jazz and the musicians who play it, and thus when you go to hear jazz it is in a different setting. I recently went to a jazz club in Paris called Sunside. There was a €20 cover charge to get in. As I paid, the cashier gave me my receipt and said, “Enjoy the concert.” Her comment caught me off guard. I have never entered a club setting and been told to “enjoy the concert.” She was correct. This was not any normal club setting I had ever experienced. Seventy wooden chairs were tightly lined in rows as close to the stage as was comfortable. The stage was a small raised 12” platform in the corner of the room. And there was no smoking. NO SMOKING IN A JAZZ CLUB – what is the world coming to!
Around 9:30, the musicians took the stage and played modern bebop like I have never heard before. There was not a sound in the crowd. No one dared move or rattle the ice in their drinks. I was sitting behind the piano player with my feet leaning on the stage and looked out on the crowd to see all eyes transfixed on the musicians as if they were hypnotized. Only between selections did anyone touch their drinks – and then it was quick. The waitress didn’t even come into the crowd for drink orders during the performance. Try to have that happen in an American club.
The thing that set this performance apart from any other I have recently experienced was the passion of the players for their music. I have been to many gigs in New Orleans and other cities where the musicians were “on” that night and played well. But nothing compared to this night. In this concert setting, the musicians played as if this was their last performance. This level of passion and commitment towards their music was to earn them the extra point they would need to get them over the top when they presented their score card to St. Peter.
I was fatigued at the end of both sets. The music picked me up out of my seat and rocketed me through space on an emotional ride, eventually leaving me on another planet. I will go back to Sunside to buy a ticket for another space ride, but this next time, I will go on the “All Cardassians are FREE” night. Keep out the Ferengi.