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.

Howie Greenberg
Surf Vietnam Wannabe
Go See New Live Bands!!!

[Published on: 12/12/00]

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