Posts Tagged ‘Jazz’

Blowing my own trumpet

July 20, 2019

It is great when projects work out perfectly. So I am blowing my own trumpet, because it was my idea to bring a brilliant writer and philosopher to Lamastre for a book signing. Not that he lives far away, but he is rather timid – which is a bigger obstacle than miles when it comes to public appearances.

His name is Jean-Pierre Martin and he has just published an “autopianography” intitled “Real Book”.

Jean-Pierre explaining what I am explaining below.

Kate makes a guest appearance.

Just up my street, as I think the famous REAL BOOK, which is the bible of all jazz musicians, is a beautiful example of “power to the people”. Perhaps not as spectacular and politically significant as the Fall of the Berlin Wall, but it shows that when there is a real desire to unite interests, there is a way to avoid all red tape and just get on with it.

During the 60’s and 70’s it was extremely difficult to get hold of printed jazz music, for several reasons. The most usual instruments are in different keys: saxophones in Eb, trumpets in Bb etc so the publisher would need to write the music for three sections on the same score. The new generation of jazz musicians were young and generally didn’t have much money, so buying the score from a Charing Cross Road publisher for the price of three lunches wasn’t an option. What’s more jazz is based on improvisation, so how do you write the score anyway?

Well, each jazz piece has a theme comprising melody and chords. To avoid copyright issues there was one solution: just to write down the chords. And soon an anthology appeared, called the Fake Book. Not much help for a trumpet or a trombone, because we only play one note at a time! So students of Berklee University sat down and – in their spare time – transcribed the melody of each theme, based on the song’s most famous recording and in the key of that recording. Of course the improvisation was up to you. You could always listen to the record and try to imitate Miles, Coltrane or Parker.

To differentiate their work from the Fake Book they called at the Real Book.

All this in the 60’s and 70’s before the electronic revolution. So how to distribute this work?

XEROX!!! The photocopy machine. (I remember being so excited when we had our first photocopier at school that we all stuck our heads underneath the lid and photocopied our faces – making sure we had our eyes closed. I suppose everyone did this. The precursor of selfies!)

Of course you couldn’t buy the Real Book. The only way to get hold of your own copy was to borrow it from a fellow musician, photocopy every page – almost 500 of them – and be sure to get it back to him before the next jam session! Over the next 20 years millions of scores from the Real Book were photocopied. And it didn’t take long: jazz had found a common language. So whether you are in Sidney, Moscow or Arlebosc, if the band plays ‘Round Midnight and you want to join them, you know it is going to be in in E flat minor. (6 flats! – why don’t they play All of me which is in C major!)

Now back to Lamastre and the other Real Book written by Jean-Pierre Martin.

The book talks about his lifelong obsession with the piano. Although starting to play as a child and driven by the desire to master the instrument like Art Tatum or Duke Ellington, his fingers struggled to realise his dream. During an eventful life as a militant student in the Paris of 68, as a factory worker, as a clog maker in the middle of nowhere and finally as a university professor, the piano never left him. He describes his frustration and fascination with his instrument, which he characterises as a despotic mistress. When his career as a writer took off, he finally had to choose between the two keyboards. The piano moved into the background, but the obsession did not. He therefore defines himself as an amateur musician and he is making the point that the word “amateur” has unjustly gained a pejorative connotation in common usage. Amateur means “the person who loves”, so let’s love what we do, and never mind the labels.

The signing took place at the bookshop L’Arbre à Feuilles on Saturday during the farmers’ market – the day when the little town is at its busiest. You may remember from previous blog posts that we have already organized a book signing for “Welcome to the Free Zone” by N. and L. Gara, and a signing session with Jean-Loup Chifflet, author of “Sky My Husband”.

For the presentation of “Real Book” I had organized a trio of musicians to accompany the author (on piano) so that he could illustrate his book by playing jazz standards. Myriam, who runs the bookshop, fully embraced the festive mood and combined the event with the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Arbre à Feuilles.  She had decorated her store front and provided free beer, fruit juice and things to eat.

And we played like real amateurs!



Charlie meets Roger

August 21, 2018

After the massive success of Swing aux Sarziers last August, we had considered taking a break from our annual summer concert. But then our friend François told us that some of the tour dates for his group Latin Bird had been cancelled. Would we be up for a concert, in which Markus would be playing all of the second set? You don’t refuse an offer like that!

François is an amazing musician, who plays double bass and heads up several jazz groups, exploring different styles. For Latin Bird, his idea was to re-work Charlie Parker tunes in Latin and Cuban rythms, with Linda, his wife on keyboards, Pierre on a specially adapted and pretty amazing percussion set and a brass solo instrument (usually Selim on saxophone in homage to the legendary “Bird”).

The result is intoxicating and unpredictable, and they kicked up a veritable storm at les Sarziers last Saturday night. Everyone, including Markus, was on top form and around a hundred people enjoyed a memorable evening of music, followed by the traditional buffet dinner under the chestnut tree.

Our neighbour Claude did a one-man animation du parking with his bass clarinet and cymbal contraption and Julien, a guitarist newly arrived from Belgium, performed a couple of solo numbers to start the evening off.

People often comment on how beautiful the setting is for these concerts. The musicians love their perfomance space in the calabert and the great accoustics, whilst the audience enjoys settling down in the lovely summer courtyard as the moon rises, the bats flit about, the stone walls glow gently in the fading light and the music takes over everything.

Guests also tell us how much they enjoy mingling and chatting to old friends and new in the interval and during dinner. It is true that the atmosphere is quite unique and, as we were mulling things over later we were struck by the hugely diverse range of people who gather for such events round here.

As you can see there are always quite a few children, either with their parents or brought by the grandparents with whom they are staying for the summer. Ages range from under two (hello Boris!) to well over eighty and our guests included a vet, a mason, two poets, a psychiatrist, an electrician, a winegrower, a painter, a translator, cheese makers, teachers, social workers, blacksmiths, photographers, philosophers …..
and ….
in an absolute first ….
our neighbour Roger!

Yes, there he is, accompanied by two neighbouring ladies, sitting on three of his four kitchen chairs, up on his field above the courtyard wall. Roger is extremely shy and has never accepted our invitation to join us for a concert but this time Anne-Marie managed to persuade him out, and even to come down and sit in the courtyard for the second half. We haven’t seen him since, but we are delighted that he came and from the big smile on his face and enthusiastic applause, we are pretty sure that he had a good time.

PS The following morning we had a gig with a different group to kick off a Swing Dance Festival in Vernoux. I don’t know how we managed it but Markus swung that trumpet, I sang and we all had a great morning in an enchanting little square, playing for the local café crowd and and a bunch of talented and enthusiastic dancers.

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PPS we’ve just received a some great photos of the concert (merci Margote!) here they are.

It ain’t necessarily so – Jazz n’Cakes

September 19, 2016


The little dog is Philibert Froidevaux who we purchased (or was he a free gift?) about 25 years ago at the Arlebosc bakery together with a baguette.  As we did not know what to do with him, we stuck him into a small hole in the outside wall by the house steps.  A few days ago a guest asked me “Did you notice there is a dog in the wall?”


This gave me the idea to make him the star of my first Jazz video clip based on last weeks Jazz n’Cakes concert.  After a quarter of a century being rained on, he still looks the part!

So here is the link              It ain’t necessarily so – Jazz aux Sarziers

Kate is working on a Rhone Cruise so it is up to me to keep you informed about our last event at Les Sarziers.  Jazz n’Cakes was a great success, with over 70 people attending and no cake crumb left at the end of the evening.  Here are a few pictures …


Baking started three days before the concert and by Saturday afternoon the “n’cakes” part of the evening was ready.



The barn had to be cleared and the seating to be set up and an hour before the concert – between a bite to eat, getting the drinks ready (and washing the hair) we moved the piano from the sitting room to the barn (Thank you Brice).


… and then the show started

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The night was beautifully warm and many stayed until ’round Midnight.

PS.       Don’t forget to watch Philibert in his star role.


September 10th

September 6, 2016


We did promise that we’d get off the subject of food, so apologies for the cake element in this post!

This is going to be a great evening, with François and Linda Gallix and Markus playing a relaxed selection of numbers from the 20’s to the 50’s.

The concert will be in the barn and after the music people are invited to stay on and sample a selection of typically English cakes in the kitchen.  There should be something to please everyone!

The Barn Floor One Year On

August 23, 2015

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Assiduous readers of this blog will recall that last year we demolished the rotten barn floor and put in a new one.

In the backs of our minds we had the idea of creating an indoor space in case of bad weather for our annual concert, but of course very soon the barn was once again filled with paint pots, matresses, circular saws, old doors and stuff in boxes from Paris, all coated in the usual dust and cobwebs.  Added to which the birds had no intention of changing their habits and continued to build nests, for which they seem to need a lorry load of moss, most of which they drop inconsiderately over everything beneath their flight path.  So in a way it was a relief that the weather was gorgeous for the concert with Toss the Feathers on August 7th. But somehow we were frustrated not to be able to inaugurate the place, so we decided to hold last Friday’s music workshop in the barn – and as it culminated in an open concert we took advantage of the occasion to set up an exhibition of photos by Markus’s godfather.

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After a week of clearing up and cleaning up, we were finally ready to hang a selection of photos and prepare a catalogue.

The musicians arrived for lunch . . .

6 lunch musicians

Then they got down to thrashing out the repertoire . . .

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Jazz to Folk is pretty challenging . . . .

8 rehearsal Jazz vs Folk (1024x768)

and there’s a lot to keep in your head . . .

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After dinner in the kitchen, the saxophonist finally arrives . . .

8.1. late arrival of sax

And we’re ready to go!

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Music Snapshots

August 13, 2015

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As usual it has been all go on the music front for the last few months.  We have heard Italian polyphonic traditional singers, Brazilian Jazz, Irish music, a Chamber Quartet, an Argentinian Tango Duo, Italian Country and Western (!) and much else besides.  Here are a few snapshots of our musician friends, many of whom Markus plays with in concert. (It’s worth clicking on each photo to get a better feeling for the events!)

Toss the Feathers at les Sarziers

Toss the Feathers at les Sarziers

With Anne Sila, star of The Voice

With Anne Sila, star of The Voice

Vincenzo Solo at les Sarziers

Vincenzo Solo at les Sarziers

At Marie Café with Perette of Toxic Frogs

At Marie Café with Perette of Toxic Frogs

Akoustik Trio at Le Trouillet

Akoustik Trio at Le Trouillet


Afro Jazz at la Ferme Thé

Afro Jazz at la Ferme Thé

Our next big day is on August 21st when we are getting a group of them together at Les Sarziers for a workshop followed by a concert called Jazz2Folk.

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Marie Café Photo Credit: Eva Villien.  All others K+M

Just Jazz

October 3, 2014

We rounded off the day with a party and jam session (called a boeuf in French for some unknown reason) at the Gallix farm.

Le Boeuf

About seven years ago François stepped back from an international career and non stop touring to settle with his family at the farm which had once belonged to his grandfather and is now worked by his brother Thomas.  Thomas produces honey, chestnuts and scrumptious fruit juice and François is mainly involved in the forestry side of the enterprise though he helps out when there’s a lot on.  Together with their enthusiastic WWOOFers, they had just picked 30 tons of the little Ardéchois pears which grow semi wild round here and taken them to be juiced, before attacking the apples.  Their grandfather had planted several old species which are now hard to find, along with the more traditional reinettes (russets) and canadas.

François is in contact with a huge network of world class musicians who are happy to come and play at the gigs he organises in various locations throughout the year and especially through the summer.  For some years the most popular summer fixture has been the Mardis Jazzy in the Lamastre microbrewery “Les Chopes du Moulin”  and we are all sorry that Joann, who owns the brewery, is selling up and moving to Quebec.

So the party was a wrap up of the season and to mark the end of Jazz at Les Chopes.  Who knows what next summer will bring, but our area is full of initiative and surprises and something new always seems to be just around the corner.  If one door is closing no doubt another will open.

Markus has been playing regularly at the Jazzy Tuesdays and also rehearsing every week with  François’s wife Linda on piano and his friend Hans on trombone.  A few weeks ago François’s trio was booked for a private party given by our neighbours in Arlebosc and Markus and Hans played nearly the whole gig with them.  VeroIt was a great evening and something of a revelation for the Arlebossiens who had been invited and had not known that Markus plays the trumpet.  So along with his talents as photographer it looks like he may be requisitioned for any village event which might require a brass instrument.


The angel Gabriel for the Annunciation perhaps . . . . ?

STOP PRESS Last night, already on the way to a concert at Marie Café, where Linda was playing as a duo with Pierre Lafrenaye on trumpet, Markus got a call from her to say that Pierre’s car had given up the ghost, he was stranded in the middle of nowhere and could Markus do the gig with her. It was by all accounts a triumphant success. I am just so sorry that I could not be there!

Jazz and Gelato

September 15, 2014

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So we said goodbye to our hosts and to the last guests, who were lingering over their coffee in the shade of a cherry tree and set off for Alboussière where an annual event, repeated in all the towns and villages at this season, was in progress.  IMG_6634 (2) (600x800)La Rentrée, rather than  New Year is the is the national moment for good resolutions, when the whole of France is back from its holidays and returning to school or work.  This is the time to decide that you will really get to grips with learning English, take up the piano or Tai Chi, join the basket ball team or a woodworking class.  Consequently each locality holds an open day one Saturday in early September where all the different clubs, associations and good causes set up an information stand and encourage inscriptions.  François and his trio were to provide music for part of the afternoon, but before they started they had an important call to make.

We found the three of them fortifying themselves with gelato and espresso at Cuto. The place is tiny and unpreposessing from outside but as soon as we stepped into the cool interior we knew that we were back in Italy: gelato to die for and proper coffee!  IMG_6628 (600x800)What’s more they sell wonderful peccorino cheese, sheeps’ milk yoghurt and the best ricotta this side of Umbria.  IMG_6633 (800x600)Cuto is just one part of an ambitious project being undertaken by an incredibly dynamic young woman who arrived in the Ardèche four years ago from her native Assisi.  She bought a ruined farm, which she is renovating with a view to creating a venue for a wide range of cultural events and exchanges. Music is obviously going to be part of the story and she has been in discussions with Paolo Fressu and Carla Bley, two of our all time musical heroes.  François says “pourquoi pas?” and indeed, given the vibrant music scene around here, why not?  The building work is dragging, but Roberta has no time to waste and all through October she will be hosting an event for illustrators and photographers with an exhibition, workshops and master classses.  Definitely one to watch!

We had a bit of time to kill before our next jazz engagement so we went to look for Roberta’s farm. It is tucked away in the hills down an endless winding track through a scrubby landscape which could indeed be Umbria.  We passed the sheep which provide milk for the cheese and yoghurt, doing their bit to keep the rough grass down, and and encountered a few of her Pastori degli Abruzzi – those vast and deceptively cuddly looking Italian sheepdogs which guard their flocks against wolf or human attack with equally instinctive ferocity.  Roberta breeds them and also rears Cardigan Welsh Corgis although we saw no sign of them.  There’s still a lot of work to do on the farm buildings, but with energy like hers we are sure that she will be ready for the October festival.

Then it was time to head off to François’s farm for a party to celebrate the completion of his new music room . . . .

Jazz and Snails

September 12, 2014

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We never did get round to visiting the snail farm at the Col des Fans. It is a bit out of our normal range, being on the road between Lamastre and Valence which we no longer use so much now that the TGV station has been relocated outside the town of Valence. Also, although I don’t mind eating snails from time to time, neither of us was too sure how keen we were to learn the details of raising gastropods and the procedures involved in turning them in to edible delicacies. I have vivid childhood memories of one of those wire salad shakers full of live snails left hanging for a day or two on the window handle in a French kitchen so that they could fast and purify their systems before being sent to the pot, and it was not a pretty sight!

IMG_6580 (600x800)However friends had told us that the current owners are retiring and, having failed to find a purchaser for their farm, were organising a closing down event: an al fresco snail lunch to eat up the stock! François Gallix would be playing, there was to be a brocante and a Batucada, our friends were going, so we booked a table. It turned out to be the most delightful event. The farmhouse itself is very old, with a magnificent carved stone mantle over the immense kitchen fireplace. It is just over the pass, in a bend of the old road and enjoys splendid views. We were somewhat relieved to note that the concrete snail pens (if that is the correct word) are now all empty, the overhead sprinklers have been switched off for good and the former inhabitants left some time ago. There were obviously to be no distressing scenes.

The tables had been set out on a rough grassy area above the kitchen garden and decorated with flowers. It was a glorious sunny day and we strolled about and explored before settling down with an apéritif to listen to François and his trio. The owners, Hélène and Thierry were charming hosts and had produced a unique and delicious hélicicole feast.

With the castagnou apéritif we were offered canapés of a sort of snail tapenade, followed by a tiny cup of warm nettle soup with snail pieces and crème fraîche. Pitchers of white and red wine were brought round together with a brochette of barbecued snails and then an individual casserole of snails cooked in red wine and onions on a bed of rice. Dessert was a rather more conventional choice of chocolate mousse or chestnut soufflé and the Batucada serenaded us table by table as we ate it. I was reminded of the classic shaggy dog story of nocturnal snail hunters equipped with drums, torches and watering cans to trick their prey into believing there was a thunderstorm in progress!

Coffee was on offer but François had given us an intriguing address in the neighbouring village of Alboussière, where he was off to play next.

To be continued . . .

Jazz aux Sarziers

August 7, 2013

AFFICHETTE  Jazz aux Sarziers

It is 25 years since we bought les Sarziers and we had decided to mark the milestone in style.  Last Sunday we welcomed sixty plus guests to an amazing concert.   It was a beautiful summer evening and, as they arrived our friends were able to mingle whilst they sipped an aperitif and enjoyed the glorious location and views which we love so much.  Then Jazz aux Sarziers kicked off, as the sun  started to go down, with  the fabulous sounds of the Magnetic Orchestra, led by genius bass player Francois Gallix.  The musicians loved the mood and the accoustics and played a fantastic set.

After the break, the trio were joined by Markus on trumpet and his friend Hans on trombone for a second set, which ended with a surprise change of drummer, when Pierre took over, and the addition of a second trumpet played by Julien.  Markus has been working up to this event for months and is totally thrilled to have had the opportunity of playing with Francois, Benoit and Nicolas who are just a great band.

We then moved under the chestnut tree for a buffet campagnard – a relaxed dinner during which the sky changed from golden to peach and then deepening blue as the first stars appeared.  Some of our guests had not actually been to les Sarziers before and even those who had were struck by the extraordinary magic of the evening and  the enchanting setting.  Many friends had their children with them, who enjoyed playing in the garden, lounging in the hammock and running around in Roger’s field picking bunches of flowers for maman.

Markus and I were by then floating on a little cloud of happiness.  We were so touched by the generosity of the musicians and the openness and good feeling of everyone involved.  And then came another surprise, which we had hoped for but which surpassed even our expectations.

Our friend Vincent Magrini and the group Kalynda set up after supper and gave us the most wonderful hour and a half of Balkan music.  The group is led by Maria from Rumania, who works as a classical violinist in Paris but often comes in the summer to stay with Vincent and his family and make music together.  She is joined by Eric on accordeon and Jerome on second violin, with Vincent on percussion and guitar.  Their music is quite simply spectacular.  Maria’s enthusiasm and the passion of all the players had us spellbound, and some of us dancing, led by Markus’s sister and brother in law who have travelled to Rumania and learned the traditional folk dances.  With the graceful insouciance of true musicians Julien then stepped in for a few numbers.  He too is a professional trumpet player in Paris and plays, amongst other groups, with the Ziveli Orkestar.  The audience went wild, as they say.

After the applause finally died down people began to trickle away, unwilling to break the spell, but we stayed out in the courtyard, and Vincent and Jerome played for us under the stars until 4am.

Don’t forget to click on a photo to be able to see them in all their glory in a slide show.

In 1988, when we fell in love with a ruin, how could we ever have imagined such an evening?   On August 4th we celebrated the realisation of our dream – that les Sarziers should have a new life – but more than that we celebrated the friends we have made here and the exceptional creative energy, originality and generosity which surrounds us and which makes our part of the Ardèche truly unique.

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Thanks to Brice and to Kiki for the brilliant photos!

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