Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Throwing myself at Brel

Four songs solo. Amsterdam, Fanette, Next (Au Suivant) and Statue. Amsterdam is the star... it's a simple song, but yet, not... like many of Brel's songs, it's a combination of a certain poetry with a simple chordal structure that drives the songs: repetition and rhythm and accelleration. At the end of the song you throw yourself over this cliff and you're left with.... with what? Perhaps as a listener you're left with the sense of a long silence as they fall into the next song.

Been watching DVD's of the man himself (mostly his goodbye performance at the Olympia). Brel in performance is fascinating. I've never seen a singer like him. Apart from a great voice and the belief in the song he also created these extravagant gestures to illustrate the songs. Normally I avoid any representation... if the song is good, if the words and music succeed in meaning something, then the song is going to work by itself: I shouldn't need to point out the stars when I'm singing about the night sky. However Brel's gesture's are grand, theatrical movements. Even with the sound turned off he's fabulous to watch. OK, sometimes (the DVD had a whole bunch of TV appearances that were less successful) I found myself thinking 'just sing the bloody song', but that was mostly under strange 'live' studio conditions when he seems less inspired.

We have two shows left and then we'll see what happens with the producers in the new year. Hopefully we'll be performing into the spring....

Sunday, November 13, 2005

thanks John

Just returned from a tiny cafe poetry reading by John Giorno. Must have been fewer then 20 people in the audience to see this giant of performance poetry. Thank you John Giorno. I go on stage tomorrow night and sometimes I wonder if what believe about performing is shared ... is somehow on the right road...that you have to give and give and give, and you have to take chances, and you have to expose yourself, and you have to be there, all your faults and attributes making you what you are... that generosity and daring count and technique is the smallest portion. And there was John Giorno, who I remember from his Giorno Poetry Systems record: "Sugar, Alcohol and Meat" with Kathy Acker, Ginsberg, Burroughs... and I lay in the dark and played it over and over and wanted to be some kind of artist of words and ideas.... and there was John Giorno, older, silver haired, pot bellied, handsome, strange, eyes closed, eyes shining, dancing as he sang and spoke his way through his poems and texts. Believing. Being there.

Once upon a time,
each other
very much,
and they made a vow
to stay together
until they all
and lifetime
after lifetime,
and endless
and doing practice,
they all realized
the absolute
true nature
of mind.
They were so
and overjoyed,
they started
and dancing,
and danced
and danced,
they were so happy,
in the shocked
of emptiness
and compassion,
they kept
on dancing,
and dancing,
and they danced away
all their flesh
and skin,
until there was
but their bones,
and they kept dancing
in their bones,
dancing skeltons.

John Giorno

Monday, October 17, 2005


It's cold! Thank god. I've been waiting for the fall to arrive since I had my first tantalising touch of cool at the end of August in Edmonton (where I now notice the weather is going down to -1 this week) and I've been dying for it arrive ever since... and now there are storms and rain and cold forcast for later this week so finally we can break out fall sweaters... There's no real winter in Paris, just months of cool, grey wet weather, but for a taste of cold I'll head down to Burgundy where it drops to -12 regularly. And since I haven't yet insulated the living room I'm often treated to the odd sensation of a cool snowfall sneaking through the roof tiles and falling on my back while the front of me is facing the roaring fire..

I have my head deep in music for both the Brel show coming up in three weeks and for the Standards that I'm working on for early december. The Brel is coming along now, everyone is over the mid rehearsal panic attack ("Ahhhhh! It'll never be ready on time!!!" "How can anyone move and sing at the same time!!!" Ahhhh!") and now we're drifting into getting things into place. The songs are only growing on me... apart from the ever maudlin 'Fanette'.... For the jazz material I'm redeveloping all my calluses after years of being away from the Guitar. It's a great pleasure to be away from working with playback on the tour this summer. It was a necessity from all the travel, but it has nothing to do with real music.

Trying not to read too much of the news right now... which actually means that I'm fixated on the damn news: Deadly pandemics, rogue nuclear arsenals, terrorists under every rock and behind every tree.... at least Canada and France pushed the Cultural Diversity resolution through the UN... perhaps it'll bear fruit in a few years with a little less Jennifer Aniston in the world... and a few more local heroes

Monday, October 10, 2005

Mid October in Paris. Gorgeous late warm days.

We're into the final weeks of rehearsals with the Brel and to be honest we're struggling a bit with some of the choreography that Tracy's giving us: it's not that it's particularly hard, just that the levels of dance training are pretty varied in the cast and Tracy gives very detailed moves. A lot of word painting with gestures and subtle shifts of moves for every verse of a song. I think it will all come together, however we need to run the pieces over and over and over and there's not a lot of rehearsal time left where the whole company is there....

I'm more and more impressed with the solos that I'm singing.... OK, with most of them.... as usual the songs like Amsterdam ( a Tom Waits like text of the bawdy, drinking, dying, whoring Sailors in Amsterdam) or Next (a young soldier losing his virginity in an Army Whorehouse - "it is his voice that I will forever hear, Next! Next! It is a voice of whiskey and of corpses. It is the voice of nations, it is the thick voice of blood"), those songs I find amazing... the songs like Fanette (boy loves pretty girl on beach... girl falls in love with someone else... boy can't get over it) I honestly find pretty dull... I'm sure they will start to grow on me, but at the moment I'm kind of wading through them...

I just came back from some time at the house in Burgundy. The quince tree was ripe so now a box of incredibly fragrant quinces are sitting in the living room and perfuming the whole house. Bizarre and delicious fruits...

Friday, September 30, 2005

First things first

Thursday in Paris, and I'm setting up my new site to make it easier for students to find out about lessons and contact me... The house has just had a spring (fall) cleaning to make up for the months it sat without us and now I'm getting down to my workspace/studio in the basement... months of dust and a cracked pipe have left a fair bit of mould in the air. Hopefully the patch I set in will stop the drips and the space will dry out...

I'm doing a lot of rehearsal for the Brel show that's opening up in five weeks... some amazing songs to sing and the director: Tracy Darin is giving us some simple, and very effective staging for them: some highlights I get to sing are In the Port of Amsterdam, Statue and Next. It's been great to throw myself into a new project so soon after finishing 'Driving Back to Vegas' and the french chanson tradition is so different from the Jazz Standards that Frank sang. Even though 'Jaques Brel is Alive and Well' is essentially a broadway revue channelling the chanson tradition...