Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Festival Swing*


              One of the best things about France is the huge number of jazz festivals. Although most of the biggest happen in summer, there's something going on here all year long. provides links to festivals in Europe and in France alone, I counted 183. By contrast, the most extensive list I was able to find for the U. S. counts 57.  And what's cool is that a lot of them are free and provide a showcase for local musicians, something else that's hard to find in the States. So if you're one of those people who spent years struggling to learn their scales and modes, listening to the masters, transcribing solos and can play through "rhythm changes" in all 12 keys only to live with the knowledge that some douchebag with a Stratocaster he bought at a pawn shop, who can't read music, knows 4 chords, maybe a couple of pentatonic scales and hacks his way through some blues and the Lynyrd Skynyrd liturgy yet scores more gigs and chicks - you should have been born over here. So far this summer we've been to two concerts of the Bordeaux area Jazz and Wine organization and heard American jazz royalty against the backdrop of a vineyard and free wine. Unfortunately you have to drive to these places, putting something of a damper on the bottomless wine glass idea.
             *hip reference to obscure Django Reinhardt tune

Friday, July 19, 2013

Jimmy Knepper

Cover photo of Cunningbird
While practicing the other day I got a look at myself in the mirror and thought, "Jesus, I'm starting to look like Jimmy Knepper."  The cover photo of Cunningbird, the only CD of his I have, could easily be me, if the hair was grayer. And he's dressed as I would if left to my own devices. Now, if I could just play like him.           
            Jimmy Knepper is another trombone player who ought to be a household name. I learned about him only after moving to New York and, sometime in 1989, playing hooky from work by going to a concert at nearby Pace University. The performance, dedicated to the great Ellington trombones, was led by Art Baron and included people like Craig Harris and Doug Purviance. As I remember it, a guy named Jimmy Knepper was supposed to have played as well but some sort of health problem prevented it. So when I ran across Cunningbird (an import from Denmark), probably in J&R Music or Tower Records on Broadway (where I spent a considerable amount of time and money) I remembered the name and bought it.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Beyond Le Mer

The 4th of July at Chez Hinson/Gunia
For the past week or so, the temperatures here have been in the high 80's and low 90's (high 20's, low 30's if you're reading in Celsius) and the last thing I've felt like doing is putting an old MacBook on my lap. But we've been here 10 months so now might be a good time for a summary and progress report.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Confessions Of A Jerry Lewis Fan

            The Cannes film festival was a couple of weeks ago and I was not invited for the 6oth consecutive year. They did, however, give Jerry Lewis some kind of award and an article in the New York Times had the obligatory quote from a French critic, miffed at America's failure to recognize his genius. France's love for Jerry Lewis is another stereotype for which I've yet to see much evidence. Months ago I saw a poster for Docteur Jerry et Mister Love ("The Nutty Professor") but this was in a movie memorabilia shop in Bordeaux so I'm not sure that counts. I've asked a couple of people here but their answers always fall a bit short of unbridled enthusiasm.  In fact, they usually give you a look that says, "Why would you ask me this?"