Music can often heard in places you wouldn’t expect in Paris. I was walking across a bridge on the Seine River when I heard some very inventive mainstream jazz. I spotted this Black tenor sax player standing in the middle of the bridge on the other side of the road blowing his ass off. I listened for a while and liked what I heard. I remember saying to myself that he didn’t look like he was from here. So I walked across the street and not even trying French, said in English “Where are you from?” He looked at me and replied, “Pittsburgh.” I said, “I’m from New Orleans and you play just like the top players there.” He replied, “I know. I went to the University of New Orleans.” We both had a good laugh. He introduced himself as Roby Edwards. I told him I was in Paris two years ago and was at a cafe at the Bastille where I heard a great sax player and latin guitar duo. After a few tunes I went up to give them some money and tell them (in French) I was a musician from New Orleans and that they were great. The sax player looked at me in amazement and said (in English), “I’m from New Orleans too.” After a few minutes we figured out his father lived a few blocks from where I lived in Uptown – New Orleans. Small world.
Roby and I talked about New Orleans, jazz in Paris, and other European cities. He told me he was going to Berlin next week and that Berlin has become the New York of Europe. Mainstream jazz was big there and English is the spoken language. I wished him well and tossed some money in his sax case and walked away listening to some fine inside playing.
This is yet another example of a great musician not being able to make a living playing in New Orleans. I’ll look for Roby in Berlin someday.