"Leslie Lewis and Gerard Hagen" Bonjour de Paris 16 août 2023

Bonjour de Paris...

Peter: “There were buffalos in tutus dancing in front of me while I played one of the worst gigs in my life."                                                                                                                     Gerard: “I’m just guessing, but I’d bet there were pharmaceuticals involved.”

Chers Amis,

Sunday night Leslie and I crossed our "summer concert"  finish line when we returned home from a Funky Ella band concert in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, FR.  It was the last of six crazy days that marked the ending of Leslie's and my summer concert season. Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne is a small town located in the French Alps. It is not easy to get to, or to get home from for that matter. We left Paris on a 7:45 am train which got us there just before noon.  The day before Leslie and I finished two nights working at Café Laurent in Paris. Earlier in the week we traveled to Saverne in the Alsace region of France. Saverne is the site of the Festival Au Grès du Jazz where we had our concert with Rhoda Scott and the gospel choir that we began preparing for last November.  While Leslie and I worked in Saverne and Paris, the other members of Funky Ella were working in other locations in France and Spain. This is common for our band so consequently the six of us almost never travel together. This time Mourad, Peter, Leslie and I dragged ourselves onto a train at Gare de Lyon around 7:25 am and headed in the direction of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne. Jean-Philippe and Nico drove their cars and met us there.  Upon arrival we checked into our hotel and tried to sleep for a few hours before it was time to do our sound check and eat dinner. The concert promoters were first timers which meant that a few details went by the wayside. One of those details was not including a bass amp in the backline. To their credit they fixed the problem by bringing in a huge Ampeg bass amp which sounded great. So what they lacked in experience they made up for with enthusiasm and just being good decent people.                                                                                                                                                                                                            

View of the French Alps from our hotel room in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne
Concert poster for the Funky Ella concert Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne.
Peter with his (rather large) Ampeg bass amp getting ready to sound check. 
Side view of stage set up. 
Here's what the stage looked like when we began our load-in.
Here is why having well designed lighting is so important.
Peter, Mourad, Gerard and Jean-Philippe before the concert. (Don't know where Nico was.)
Funky Ella band selfie just before the concert. (Still don't know where Nico was.)
Funky Ella concert Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne.
Funky Ella concert Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne.
Funky Ella concert Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne.
I have, in times past, traveled on the train with a keyboard.  It was always a huge pain. So much so that when I've needed a keyboard for Funky Ella concerts,  Leslie and I have been traveling by van.  But recently I've purchased a Yamaha YC61 keyboard which sounds great and is light enough and small enough to easily carry on my back like a backpack.  The best thing about the instrument is that it has drawbars so I can get a reasonably good B-3 organ sound which I am using more and more with the group. Everything Leslie and I buy for work is now based on what is the smallest device that can get the job done.  Occasionally we need to provide a PA for our duo concerts, so ours fits into a small backpack and works great.  Sweet and simple!
Leslie and Gerard in Saverne, FR. 
These last few concerts have been very fun but not without challenges due to the elements, travel and equipment issues. Last Tuesday Leslie and I had a travel day to Saverne.  Easy enough.  That night we had dinner with friends who we know from our concerts in Paris.  They have a family home in the Saverne area which they use during the summer to get away from Paris. They gave us a short tour of the area after which we enjoyed a delicious meal and good conversation.  The next night they attended our gospel concert which was for a time threatened by rain. The day of the concert we had a mid-afternoon sound check and short concert run thru. The wind was crazy and the crew covered everything but the piano keys with a tarp just in case it rained again. But by evening the wind had settled down and the clouds broke and we had a beautiful night for an outdoor concert.  The next morning we said goodbye to Saverne, a place where we had spent a total of nine days dating back to last November, and headed back to Paris to do two nights at Café Laurent.  We got home around noon, unpacked and crawled into bed for a short nap in order to be ready for our gig that night. Both nights we had a packed house, including a nice mix of friends (musician and other wise) summer tourists and locals.  Saturday morning we were up before 6:00 am and by 7:00 am we were in a taxi heading to Gare de Lyon.  The weather in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne was at least 10 degrees warmer than Paris. It's in the mountains so the sun is more intense than we are used to.  Paris has been rather mild this summer.  There were many overcast days and very mild temperatures, so this weather was a bit of a shock to us. The concert was outdoors and by evening it was very agreeable to be outside.  However, once the sun had set the stage lights attracted a huge swarm of very annoying bugs flying around the stage.  I mean it was nasty and really made what would have been a great evening a real challenge for us. Aside from that the band had a good night and we felt pretty good considering our encounter with nature! The next afternoon Leslie, Peter and I took three trains to get home. Once we closed the door to our apartment, Leslie and I were able to relax with the knowledge that we had some time off at home.  We had some dinner and took some time to think about these past two months. The places we've been, the music we've played and how to spend the next few weeks which we will use to decompress before the craziness starts all over again the the fall.  More on that later.
Leslie and Gerard in Saverne with Alain, our friend from Paris.
View of Saverne looking toward Germany. It is difficult to see but the Black Forest is out there.
Home on outskirts of Saverne.
This structure is part of a castle near Saverne. There are several to be found there.
Set up for our Au Grès Du Jazz Festival gospel concert with Rhoda Scott in Saverne, FR.
Concert run thru for the Au Grès Du Jazz Festival gospel concert. It was threatening to rain so we kept the tarp on the piano and organ.
Au Grès Du Jazz Festival gospel concert from a sky view.
Audience view of the Au Grès Du Jazz Festival gospel concert.
Leslie conducting the choir, Au Grès Du Jazz Festival gospel concert.
Au Grès Du Jazz Festival gospel concert.
Au Grès Du Jazz Festival gospel concert.
Taking a bow after the concert.
Leslie with fellow singer Linda Lee Hopkins and Flavien (the manager) at Café Laurent in Paris.
Linda Lee Hopkins and Ozzie Smith (saxophone) sit in with Gerard at Café Laurent in Paris.
Leslie has created a little oasis for us right here in the center of Paris. Our terrace is a lovely place to spend some out door time reading or grilling dinner and having friends over for a meal. She has given us a good reason not to leave home which works for me. Speaking of her accomplishments,  Leslie had to take on the roll of conductor of the gospel choir for our concert at the Festival Au Grès du Jazz.  She did what she always does. She followed her own instincts and did what she thought would  be best for the choir. She has never had any formal training in music schools.  She learned the traditional way that all artists did before there were schools; she got the gig and learned by doing the work. In this case she was really concerned because she had never conducted before so she made a script of what she needed to do and when she needed to do it. With everything laid out she could follow her instincts and shape the music and well, conduct. Leslie made the choir feel comfortable and the concert was very well received.  Afterwards we wandered into a restaurant/bar looking for a late night snack but expecting to be told that the kitchen was closed. After all Saverne is a small town, but Leslie was immediately recognized as we entered the room and a server took our food order as Leslie signed concert programs for people who had dropped by the restaurant after the concert.
Leslie's garden in Paris.
Another shot of Leslie's garden in Paris.
Leslie's garden at night.

We have had a number of visits from friends and family over the last few months.  Leslie's brother Ralph and Veronica, his lovely wife, were here in July.  They were able to get around and see the things that were important to them and we were able to take them around to some of the places that we like. They came to hear us at Chez Papa Jazz Club and we had a little dinner party on our terrace so they could get a chance to meet some friends of ours here in Paris.  It was really nice for Leslie and I to have them here. Jerry and Bonnie Kalaf visited with their family.  Jerry and I have shared many years gigging and recording.  We've toured in the US and here in France. Over the years Jerry has spent quite a bit of time touring in France so whenever something crazy would happen on a gig here I knew that he would get it, consequently he was my first phone call!  It had been too long since we last hung so this was a nice moment. 

Leslie and I are taking some down time until the end of the month.  Our next performances are Aug. 31-Sept. 1&2 at Chez Papa Jazz Club in Paris.  We hope that you all are enjoying a great summer doing all the things that make you happy. 

Leslie and Gerard with Leslie's brother Ralph in the metro in Paris.

The Funky Ella CD can be streamed on any number of platforms but the main ones are: 

"I Put A Spell On You" first recording by "Funky Ella". 

Our calendar is available here: https://surfcovejazz.com/tour For those of you who are in Paris or if you are planning to be in Paris in Sept./Oct.,  Leslie and I are at Chez Papa Jazz Club on Aug. 31-Sept. 1-2. http://www.papajazzclub-paris.fr  On the 4th of Sept. Leslie travels to Dijon to work with the Nicolas Fourgeux Quartet at the Grand Hôtel La Cloche.  The 6th of Sept. Leslie and I are joined by Ron Baker and Jean-Philippe O'Neal for a night of Swing music at the Caveau de la Huchette in Paris. http://www.caveaudelahuchette.fr/1/concerts_septembre_2023_1482297.html On Sept. 7, 14 & 21 we are at Chez Papa and on Sept. 19th we work at the Café Laurent in Paris. https://www.hoteldaubusson.com/cafe-laurent  Our Funky Ella band plays at Villeneuve Jazz in Villeneuve-la-Garenne 92390 on Sept. 30th.  In Oct.  Leslie and I are back at Chez Papa Jazz Club on Oct. 12-13-14 & Oct. 26-27-28. http://www.papajazzclub-paris.fr  On Oct.18th we are working at Café Laurent in Paris. https://www.hoteldaubusson.com/cafe-laurent  So now you know where and when to find us. Also please look for more dates to be added in October.


Gerard and Leslie enjoy a meal that doesn't involve a gig!.

Thank you for giving us your time and attention, we appreciate it very much. Please check our website for news and updates. While you are there please sign up for our weekly email to learn where you can hear us. http://www.surfcovejazz.com   If you have any comments feel free to contact me. I enjoy hearing from you. This email appears on our website where you may also comment. http://www.surfcovejazz.com/blog/ As always thanks for staying in touch with us. 

Until next time,  Leslie et Gerard

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