Sunday, June 04, 2006

assumptions challenged

At the Fête de l'Iris, I had a long conversation with guitarist Pierre Van Dormael before the Catherine/Luc duo set. He told me about his recent work: a score for the French movie Essaye-moi (Pierre's brother Jaco directed the Palme-winning Le Huitième Jour) and an upcoming recording of his "North Country Suite" by Octurn. The score allowed him to work with Lizz Wright. I'd dismissed Wright based on my perception of her label (Verve) and her publicity, but Pierre's rapturous praise of her talent, ability and importance to jazz convinced me to give her a shot (which has yet to be fired). And now, even DJA is hinting at a collaboration...

Later, I was once again confronted with label- (Blue Note) and publicity-generated negative prejudice while watching Raul Midon on TV, singing Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" in duo with French singer Tété (a rare French black bohemian?). I had assumed Midon to be some sort of smoothed-out soul crooner fit for the post-Norah Jones set, but it turns out that, yes, he has a strong voice, but he's also a virtuoso guitarist who plays like no one I have ever seen. His hand position is really weird and he seems to strike the strings rather than strum or pluck them, yet plays in a very detailled way.

Taratata (the show in question) has always been a great music show (well, apart from the interviews, which tend to suck: recently, the interviewer repeatedly addressed the Red Hot Chili Peppers' bassist as "Feal") with excellent production values. A highlight from the Midon show was a two-band cover of Blur's "Song 2," which began with just the two lead singers and two violins (one plucked, one bowed). Later, the IRCAM was mentioned, which is a rare event, even on late-evening national TV.

Taratata's quality is especially remarkable in a country where music shows tend to be more like Le Symphonic Show or Les 500 Choristes (on the same state-owned channel). The latter was particularly painful: a parade of popular singers do covers, backed by a band and the titular 500-strong choir, invariably with the worst/least creative arrangements imaginable. Each song is followed by the host's (it's always the same one for these ridiculous extravaganzas, I forget her name) petulant comments about the moment d'émotion that has just been experienced.

[Much later addition]
Further underlining the dire state of music on French TV, while Audiovisual Dinosaur #1 Michel Drucker had invited an opera singer currently moonlighting as a Luis Mariano impersonator (Drucker + Mariano + opera singer = new heights in cheese), over on the BBC, there was a an interesting simultaneous discussion and performance of Terry Riley's "In C."