Saturday, September 09, 2006

jazz & poetry

Went to see William Parker at the Black Rebels Festival up at La Villette, and I was AMAZED. The band he put together was stunning, AND it included spoken word by Amiri Baraka (who used to be Leroi Jones: Black Power/Beat poet extraordinaire). The premise was "The Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield". Now, I bought a ticket because of Baraka, and it was great to see a the man in person, doing his thing (and though he's looking a bit like a Beat Yoda these days--he's 72 years old--he lived up to his fireball reputation). But the real thrill of the evening was the music. I like jazz, I appreciate technique as much as any layperson, but it's rare to see a band that's really on fire. And William Parker's musicians were exactly that. The sax and trumpet players, Darryl Foster and Lewis Barnes respectively, were the smoothest and most impeccably together players I've seen all year, and Dave Burrell on piano managed to sound delicate and insane at the same time (and when he plays solos, the man looks like he's wrestling a rhino). And the drummer, a guy named Hamid Drake, sounded like an entire samba band when he got going. For once poetry, pop, and jazz all mashed up together to create something fantastic. The rather, er, expressionistic photo shows a hat, which is Baraka, and a turquoise wristband, which is William Parker playing bass. All of this in the magical Cabaret Sauvage, which is an old dance "guingette" (a wooden circus tent, essentially) that was dismantled from just outside of Paris and installed by the canal in the Parc de la Villette.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Guimard's Mezzara

Managed to catch the last day of an exhibition in the rarely-open Hotel Mezzara (60 rue Lafontaine in the 16th arrondissement), designed by my all-time-favourite Art Nouveau architect, Hector Guimard--that's him there, in his "Castel Beranger" office around 1900. I'd never been inside the rarely-open Mezzara, and I was amazed to discover the soaring entrance lobby, with a stained glass skylight in the shape of a textile shuttle...because Guimard built the mansion for a textile magnate, who showed his products to clients who visited the mansion. All but the dining room furnishings have disappeared, but the building is in good shape and there's a small association petitioning to get a Guimard museum installed. They organized this recent exhibit around the postcards Guimard used to create to promote his architecture business.

It's worth walking past the outside of the Mezzara if you're in the neighborhood, especially since four other Guimard masterpieces are nearby: check out the Castel Beranger (nicknamed the "Deranged Castle") at 16 rue de la Fontaine, the apartment blocks at the corner of rue Agar and rue de la Fontaine, the Tremois at 11 rue Francois-Millet, and the house he built for himself and his wife, at 18 rue Henri-Heine (squeezed into a tiny triangular footprint of land!) I love Guimard's obsession with grillwork and his "organic" line.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Editeurs de la décoration

Back from the country...where I've been writing about Las Vegas. Slightly surreal to write about casino gambling when all I can see from the window are Charolais cows, munching grass in the greenest pastures this side of Ireland. My only complaint with coming back to Paris is that I've had to give up my wellington boots, because suddenly it's summer weather again & skinny dresses just don't look right with big green rubber boots (call me a slave to fashion). So I took off my boots & headed over to the opening of the Biennale des éditeurs de la décoration at the Carrousel du Louvre (it's on until the 10th, if you're tempted to go). No idea what to expect...but I had an invitation, so I convinced my sidekick to come too, and off we went. Mostly, the Biennale is a trade show--imagine an awful lot of curtain tassels, many many many chandeliers, and some unfortunate facelifts. But, the entrance was spectacular: a black tulle inverted pyramid, suspended from the ceiling of the labyrinthian conference space underneath the Louvre Museum. The pyramid is by theatre set designer Charlotte Villermet; I strolled underneath it to see if there was some hidden Da Vinci Code reference. After that, I spent some time in the Donatus Venetian Fabrics stand, admiring the glam skull art by a nameless Hungarian artist.

I found the press booth, got myself a plastic champagne glass, and my sidekick & I lounged on sofas and chairs by Maurice Renoma (hence, photo!)...good perch for people-watching. Oh, and I had a chance to meet the charming velvet-obsessed Serge Olivares, with his pug Josephine. All in all, quite a change from the country...