I have always been most impressed with the French jazz scene and have been instrumental in bringing a number of excellent French groups to Birmingham. Robin Fincker, who was based in London for a number of years, but now lives near Toulouse, has brought both his Whahay and Primitive London bands to the city. Sylvain Darrifourcq has struck me as one of the most inventive drummers and composers in Europe; he has brought three of his projects to Birmingham: In Bed With, In Love With and a trio featuring himself, guitarist Richard Bonnet and the American saxophonist Tony Malaby. The In Love With concert with Sylvain and the Ceccaldi brothers, Theo on violin and Valentin on cello in the Hexagon Theatre at mac was one of the most impressive concerts that TDE Promotions have put on.
Attending festivals in Paris, particularly in the banlieues (suburbs), Strasbourg, Lyon and Jazz à Luz up in the foothills of the Pyrenees, has brought home to me the range and variety of the jazz scene. I think one of the strengths of the scene is the system of collectives, or collectifs in French. Each city seems to have a collectif and the big cities have several. These are relatively small groups of musicians who club together to set up collaborations, festivals and in some cases run venues. It seems that joining a collectif commits the musician to engage in projects and in this way it differs from the collectives in Britain, such as the London-based Loop Collective which has had a large membership, but no expectation or requirement that members regularly engage with other members in specific projects. By keeping the membership small, the French collectif ensures that its members are actively involved creatively. And, of course, it helps that they receive funding, often from three sources, the French Arts Council, the regional government and the city or town. This funding enables them to employ adminstrators who get things going. Examples include the Coax Collectif and Onze Heures Onze Collectif in the Paris region, Le Grokolektif in Lyon, Tri Collectif in Orleans and Muzzix in Lille.
This Saturday TDE Promotions with Fizzle bring another stunning French group to the Hexagon Theatre at mac: Velvet Revolution. It’s a trio led by saxophonist Daniel Erdmann with Theo Ceccaldi on violin (the one who appeared with In Love With, see above) and Jim Hart on vibraphone. Jim is English, but is now based in France. Their music is gentle, contemplative and very beautiful, have a listen here. The concert takes place this Saturday, 17th November at 8pm. There will be a support set by the Tom Harris Becca Wilkins Duo; equally beautiful music with Becca on vocals and Tom on keys.
Tickets are available here.