Posts tagged ‘Les Halles’

4/1/09: Sophie Alour @ Sunset/Sunside, Paris (69/100)

April 2nd, 2009

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File this under “Things I should probably know, but somehow had no idea.” Paris is known for jazz. So if jazz is the sound of the city, then damnit, I was gonna see some jazz. But where to see jazz in a city known for it? I had no idea. So I asked the Internet. The Internet knows all.

The Internet said there was a good jazz place called Sunset/Sunside (two venues attached) in the Les Halles (“The Market”) district. I thought, “Hey, I love the NY restaurant Les Halles, where Anthony Bourdain is executive chef (but has no time to cook between trips around the world), so that sounds good to me. Ok, maybe the decision wasn’t that easy (or trivial).

It actually took all day. I wanted to make sure I saw something good, considering that I missed Ben Lee the night before. But I didn’t want the place to be an hour away like last night, either. This is the hell that can be this project sometimes – especially when there are limited days remaining, and I want to make every show count.

Here’s what I considered:

Afro-beat bands @ Batofar – a venue on a boat. cool, but way too far away.

The jazzy hip-hop group US3 @ the jazz club New Morning – sold out, and too expensive anyhow (27 ).

Metallica at some arena way out in the suburbs – sold out, way too expensive (65 ) and ridiculous to think I’d go all the way out there. But, could’ve been really cool if I could’ve pull it off.

Sophie Alour Quintet @ Sunset/Sunside – winner!

I chose Sophie because a) she’s Jazz, b) her gig was part of the Blue Note Records jazz festival going on at different venues in Paris, and c) I ran out of time and needed to pick something. And it turned out to be a great choice. We hopped the Metro from our hotel, 3 stops to the Les Halles district, popped out, and within 5 minutes we were at the club.

We rolled up to Sunset about 9pm, Sophie was slotted to go on at 930pm. Walking into the club, it felt like I was back at a NYC jazz club. First, there was the English name. Secondly, it just felt like home: exposed brick walls, tiny tables, a stage lifted only a few inches off the ground, super overpriced drinks – like I said, just like home. As mentioned before, this was part of the Blue Note Records jazz festival. During the festival, Blue Note artists would perform the works of other jazz legends. Tonight’s show Sophie Alour’s Quintet performed the music of Wayne Shorter.

I wasn’t sure who Wayne Shorter is, due to my limited knowledge of jazz. But who cares. It’s jazz and I’m in Paris. So I order an 8,5 (approx $11) Stella, Sunshine gets an 8,5 Kir Royale and we grab seats a few rows back from the stage. Just before Sophie takes the stage, I look back and notice the place has sold out. Nice, I picked a good one.

The quintet is Sophie on saxophone, and a bunch of other dudes on trumpet, piano, bass and drums. They’re all pretty young, and seem pretty good. The drummer was a bit anxious and over the top for my liking. And the bass player was pretty anonymous (maybe because he never soloed). But I liked Sophie, and the trumpet and piano players. They were all pretty solid, but nowhere near the quality of Terence Blanchard – who their style closely resembled, I thought.

They played four 15-minute songs, where everyone got to step in for their solos (save for the bass player, as Isaid). Whenever the drummer got to his solo, the rest of the band fell off quietly – leaving him to beat on his kit. And I don’t know, I guess he was ok – just a bit too aggressive and all over the place for me. But he played with a permanent smile on his face, and occasionally knew when to take a back seat, so I’ll let him off the hook.

Sophie was a good sax player, and good performer. She grabbed the mic after nearly every song to address the crowd. Of course, I had no idea what she was saying. But it sounded nice. Everything sounds nice in French. Even the bums and gypsies around Paris make it sound really nice when they’re asking for your money:

Bum: “Bonjour Monsier. [Something in French], s’il vous plai?.”
Me: No
Bum: “Merci! Au Revoir!”

Man, France is awesome. Some guy could be sticking you up in Paris and it would probably be pretty pleasant. Not that I want to try though. Bonne nuit.