Loudon Wainwright “Mr. Ambivalent”

One of the best tracks on Loudon Wainwright III’s latest album with Virgin Records, “Little Ship,” is titled “Mr. Ambivalent” (“Make a little movement or get off of the pot”). Given that Wainwright is a singer, songwriter, instrumentalist, actor and social satirist, is the song a reflection of a career dilemma – a case of too many hats and not enough heads? “It was more the Freudian idea of ambivalence: loving and hating the same thing; my inability to choose. But as far as my career’s concerned, I don’t think of myself as an actor or comedian or social commentator. I think of myself as a songwriter and performer.” Continue reading “Loudon Wainwright “Mr. Ambivalent””

Kenny Garrett’s “Songbook”

They’re red and made from plastic. Kenny Garrett holds them up. “Fourchette,” he says, “… Cuillère.” They arrived with his lunch, Chinese take-out, in the middle of an improvised French lesson that is taking place during a photo shoot scheduled just before our interview. Welcome to the busy world of the most promising alto saxophonist on the scene today. Garrett points to the photographer’s lens-shade. “Parapluie?” He sounds unconvinced. It’s the only time during our interview. For if Kenny Garrett is anything, it’s a man who knows what he wants.

Continue reading “Kenny Garrett’s “Songbook””

Jazz Spotlight: Ted Hawke

Drummer Ted Hawke first set eyes on Paris in 1991. He liked what he saw. He was in the middle of a big band gig but it didn’t feel like just another tour stopover, like the hundreds he’d made all over North America, Europe and Japan. It felt like home. After that first experience he started coming back whenever he could, his visits growing longer with every stay. Three years ago he definitively jumped ship. What made him do it? “It was the vibrations. The more I saw of Paris, the more I felt them. They’re practically the same as New York’s. Plus all the festivals and culture and stimuli, and the African music. It’s fantastic for that, and there are lots of great musicians based here too.” Continue reading “Jazz Spotlight: Ted Hawke”

Mike Zwerin’s Two Hats

With his trademark hat and cigarette, Mike Zwerin is a recognizable figure in any Paris jazz club. In fact Zwerin wears two hats, as a trombonist and as a columnist for the International Herald Tribune. We met recently in his comfortable home in the 11th arrondissement to discuss both “chapeaux.” Is it tough living a double life? “It’s not quite a double life because both jobs involve music. But it is very hard to mix the two. If I go to play at a festival, it never crosses my mind to do any interviews on the side. I’m there strictly as a musician.”

Continue reading “Mike Zwerin’s Two Hats”

Eric Watson’s Jazz Flashbacks

The evening of the Fête de la Musique, pianist Eric Watson was surveying the crowds from the balcony of his Marais apartment when he had an epiphany. “I suddenly flashbacked to the ’60s and ’70s. I felt something was coming; things were finally changing … ” He’s talking about music and the way it’s offered to the public. And he’s talking about the conservatism of the ’90s. “In the ’70s you could deal with Cecil Taylor because of the dope.” He shrugs. “People don’t have that anymore … ” Ergo, they don’t deal with Cecil anymore. Instead they have to deal with being told “by people like Wynton what jazz is. What I want to see more of is truly crazy musicians.” And he’s ready to be one of them? “Absolutely.”

Continue reading “Eric Watson’s Jazz Flashbacks”

Wayne Shorter’s High Life

At recent Paris concerts Benny Golson, Geri Allen and Chico Freeman all identified the composer of numbers they’d just performed as “the great Wayne Shorter.” Given his historic role in contemporary music, the adjective is fully deserved. A longtime member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and Miles Davis’ extraordinary second quintet, saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter also took part in the classic Blue Note recording sessions and co-founded the rock-fusion band Weather Report with Joe Zawinul. Shorter was in Paris last month to promote an exceptional two-concert gig, November 8 at New Morning and his first CD with Verve. I caught up with him in his suite at the Ritz, an appropriate setting since his new record’s entitled “High Life.” Continue reading “Wayne Shorter’s High Life”

Sugar Blue’s Paris Blues

I know it’s dumb but I can’t help asking: is it true that Mick Jagger first spotted Sugar Blue playing harmonica on the Métro? Sugar Blue looks at me like it’s the sorriest question he’s ever heard. “Oh man,” he says, “can you really imagine Mick Jagger on the Métro…? I mean, they’d never let him out!” Okay, so how did he wind up playing fierce harp solos on tracks like “Miss You” for three of the Stones’ best albums? “I was jamming at a party in Paris when this guy gives me a number to ring about some session work. This English voice answered and said it was Mick, and told me to come on over to the studio, only it was like midnight or something, but I went. The taxi put me out at this deserted place near the Bois and just when I was thinking I was out of my mind for believing this stuff, someone opens a door and the next thing you know I’m recording with the Stones!”

Continue reading “Sugar Blue’s Paris Blues”

Break on Through… Jim Morrison Revisited

The ghost of Jim Morrison, originally published December 1986

You know how it is: On a Saturday night in Paris with the rain turning to sleet on the streets outside and inside the cafe it’s dark and warm. The windows are veiled with humidity and smoke curls across the bar. There is a lull in the conversation and behind you the door closes and a figure flits down the street, into the night. “There he goes”, somebody mutters. You turn but the ghost is already gone although the tingle down the spine remains. Continue reading “Break on Through… Jim Morrison Revisited”