Chalking yet another quality move up to my penchant for brain farts, I
showed up more than two hours early to see St. Germain at Irving Plaza
last Friday. While most of the local tribe was downtown catching Dark Star
Orchestra, a handful of adventurous jamsouls made it over to chill
with new world filled with people of various geographic origins (but
mostly European). No surprise considering the background of St.
Germain, the pseudonym of band founder Ludovic Navarre, an historically
significant name from the court of French King Louis XV. Saint Germain
was a man who kept people entertained pretending to be a few hundred
years old but Navarre, on the other hand, has a more substantial way to
get you going. Using a varying pace of techo and house beats on his
turn tables, Ludo has gathered considerable jazz talents to blend with
him and develop an eminently stimulating sound without bursting through
your ear with the high beat counts normally associated with his form.
That subjective interpretation also allows his fellows to reach in the
way jazz musicians should be free to while his strong bass lines and
ambient backgrounds fill out the overall sound. After a five year
layoff, Navarre got St. Germain together to release an album called
Tourist on Blue Note Records, new home to Karl Denson and Soulive
among many other acts we love.
They started off on a mellow groove with the lid on just enough so
nothing would spill but you could taste the brimming surface enough to
know that they were on the verge which did come forth more in the
night's second tune. Looped with the phrase "I want you to get your
hands together," the jazz horn overlay sharply helped the dense clubby
dance beat, increased in intensity by Edmondo Carnero on drums and two
more percussionists beside. The incessant bump and grind from Navarre,
postioned in back and central to the troupe, lightened at moments by
nature of Alexnadre Destrez' keys but what they did as a whole was never
that simple. Some very muscular jazz riffs came off the guitar,
emboldened by power horns which stacked nicely on the percussion and
DJ. Moving more into a reggae theme, saxophonist Edouard Labor switched
to a flute lending airiness to that song while the technoscapes added
shape and solidity to the cloud, lolling us into an extended groove from
the fluttering flute and flitting trumpet of Pascal Ohse. I wish I knew
the name of the guitarist on that one because he kept reminding me of
David Gilmour who could cry out into infinity as beautifully as anyone
with six strings and an amplifier.
No desire to stop there, St. Germain then opened things up more with
some Latin strikes on the keyboards and the metallic decoration on
percussion that's usually there. It was a nice start but then came the
curve; a flying hot jazzjam that was enough to roil without the full
intensity of all members going at it at once. This is not a noise band
but the symphonic nature of their total sound will continually feed
candy into your ear as the relentless bass lines from Navarre maintains
the tight rope and it's walk steady while the rest of the musicians
reach around. For a few moments I could swear they teased the theme
from Peter Gunn, mixed into a deeper and funkier Latin piece driven by
the melody of the keyboardist who moved nicely to the dancey bars
rounding out the hip hop coming from the tables. With the increasing
popularity of soundscapes, techno & hip hop DJs and rhythms being mixed
into the jamscene, I'm sure you'll hear from these guys again.
I have a thirst for things new and a much wider envelope so my night
with St. Germain was satisfying on many levels even beyond the at times
fascinating compositions. Ludovic Navarre is our type of guy, never
satisfied but trying to bring out something fresh and interesting in
what he does which I hope you get a chance to experience as well.
They'll be at the El Rey Theater
in L.A. on 12/13 but, if you can't make it there, go to Blue Note's site
and check out St. Germain as well as one of the deepest lists of amazing
artists you'll encounter anywhere.
Surf Vietnam Wannabe
Go See New Live Bands!!!