Bonjour de Paris ...
Leslie and I returned to Paris this morning after four days and two concerts in New York. Our employer surprised us with business class tickets for this trip. We fly enough that we have occasionally been upgraded to business class and it always makes the flight much less of an ordeal, but it also makes the next time we fly coach even more of a drag. It wasn't all smooth sailing though. When it came time to check in for the return flight, the Air France website wouldn't allow me to use internet check-in. So I knew we'd need to plan on extra time to check-in at the airport. Which was good because when we arrived at JFK we learned that the person who booked our flights had booked the return flight for March 26th instead of February 26th. Oops! Because we were there early, we were able to get on an earlier flight with only a minimal fee. Well minimal as compared to all of the other really expensive fees that airlines charge these days.
The first concert was on Thursday and was a little bit of a challenge. We had been busy right up until the time we left for the airport to fly to New York so we hadn't been sleeping very much. I was so looking forward to sleeping during much of the flight to New York but for a number of reasons, though the aforementioned business class ticket came with a seat that became a bed, that didn't happen. So we landed at JFK at noon, and needed to be on our way to our concert in New Jersey by 3:45 pm. In between noon and 3:45 pm the following needed to be accomplished; clearing customs, taking a taxi from JFK to the hotel in midtown, checking in, finding an A.T.&T. store to restore our U.S. cellular service and getting our clothes, music and CD's packed for that night's concert at Trumpets Jazz Club in Montclair, New Jersey. Mission accomplished and after taking the E train to Penn Station and NJ Transit to Montclair, we were about a two block walk away from the gig. So far so good. We arrived at the club and prepared for sound check, a quick run through of some of the music for the concert and hopefully a little nap backstage. Unfortunately the bass player was on a train that was delayed to the point where he barely made it to the gig on time. So no sound check with the whole band or rehearsal. This isn't really optimal but it also isn't the something that needs to doom a performance. It is all in the way that people adjust and in response pay close attention to what is going on during the performance. After Leslie got her mic sounding the way she liked, she went to dress and to prepare for the concert so she didn't meet the bass player until she walked on stage! Again, oddly enough, this isn't really a big deal. Due to budgets, jazz musicians often work under these conditions. But once we started I felt there was a lack of energy coming from the band. Leslie did her best under the circumstances, and I'd be willing to bet that most people didn't notice the lack of energy. But I am also sure that some did, but more importantly, we did! Leslie was very well received, but still, it wasn't the performance we wanted to give that night. There were just too many obstacles to overcome. We had some nice moments but not the level we are accustomed to reaching and sustaining in our concerts. This is the first time in a very long time that I recall this happening. Leslie was very disappointed because she worked so hard to get an audience for that night. The club owner told us we'd be fortunate to get twenty people to come to hear an unknown out of town artist. After promoting this concert for several weeks, she drew eighty people! So you can understand that she was feeling let down that night. We did get a very good crowd response, but like I said, we knew the level we wanted to be at, and we weren't there.
Our concert date at Trumpets Jazz Club, Montclair, NJ.
Friday we slept until noon and met my nephew and his girlfriend for lunch. After which Leslie went to see a friend and the rest of us went in search of a place to do our traditional New York activity... playing pool. We ended up in a place that I immediately loved because it was around 3:00 pm Friday afternoon and every stool in the place was taken. It was so dark that it might as well have been midnight. There was one pool table that had around five guys playing with one women! So you can imagine what she looked like. I pretty much knew that we weren't getting anywhere near that pool table. As I looked around I noticed a clock on the wall that had no arms. I guess if you need to know what time it is, you don't need to be in that place! We waited for my cousin (a very talented NYC artist) to arrive and left in search of another pool table. There were a surprising amount of places to play but we chose a nearby Marriott Hotel with one table next to the bar. As you might imagine the Marriott crowd didn't include any pool sharks so we had the table all to ourselves for few hours until it was time to leave for dinner.
Spring weather in New York in February!
We had a crowd of fifteen for dinner at Da Marino, a very, very old school Italian restaurant on 49th street not far from Times Square. Leslie and I first went there ten years ago. That night she sat in and the manager offered her a gig there. Our dinner party was having a blast and were only mildly annoyed when actor Chris Noth, a regular customer, decided to sing a few tunes. The singing wasn't very good but it did add to the party atmosphere that they want to create in the restaurant. This isn't the place you go when you want a quiet intimate dinner for two!
Our dinner party at Da Marino Restaurant, NYC.
Saturday was our second concert and the main reason we were in New York. We were hired to play a private after dinner concert for a very nice couple we met at one of our performances at Chez Papa Jazz Club in Paris. The concert was held on the second and third levels at La Grenouille, a beautiful French restaurant in midtown. They rented a piano and a P.A. system for our concert. The concert went very well and we hope it will lead to some more opportunities for work in the U.S.
La Grenouille restaurant site of our Saturday night concert.
Performance space at La Grenouille restaurant.
Leslie before our Saturday night concert.
Sunday we had a relaxing afternoon before we left for the airport and flew back to Paris.
The day before we left for New York I began teaching the first of a sixteen week jazz history class at the International Music Educators of Paris College of Music. I was a very happy to be back in the classroom discussing this music that I have loved for the last four decades.
We are now focused on being in California in August. We are looking into booking some dates while we are in town. If you know of any new places that have begun booking jazz since we left, please let us know. As things become more clear we will keep you informed on the status of that trip.
On April 25th we are doing a concert at Sunside Jazz Club in Paris that will be an "Hommage à Ella Fitzgerald". We will be working with Peter Giron, bass and Mourad Benhammou, drums. We have already heard from some friends who will be in Paris for that date, so if you are in Paris that week please put this date on your calendar. Our concerts at Sunside are always great fun and usually we sell out so please take that into consideration.
Please check our website for our March dates. We have the usual jazz club gigs in and around Paris including Chez Papa Jazz Club as well as Café Laurent. Leslie is performing with the Philippe Duchemin Trio in Saint-Symphoren on March 25th. While you are on our website please sign up for our weekly email blast to learn where you can hear us.
Until next time,
Leslie and Gerard
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