Following extensive touring of Europe and the USA, including two sell out concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, Paris Combo return to Australia for the first time in more than a decade to perform their unique blend of contemporary French chanson, swinging gypsy jazz and sassy alterna-pop with Latino and Middle Eastern rhythms.
With five studio albums to their credit including Living Room – which went gold in France in 2000 and was nominated for a French Music Award – Paris Combo is a sleek, contemporary entrée into a dishy, delightful and distinctly French sound.
The mainstream success of Living Room gave the group a unique status as a French indie band capable of drawing crowds in both France and the USA, and at the time, Paris Combo paved the way for other French independent musicians to perform around the globe.
The fun-loving and quirky quintet fronted by the charismatic Belle du Berry (vocals), features David Lewis (trumpet, flugelhorn, piano), Emmanuel Chabbey (bass), Potzi (guitar) and Francois Jeannin (drums, percussion, vocals).
Australian born trumpeter, pianist, producer and arranger David Lewis first met chanteuse and now partner Belle du Berry in 1994 when they were both performing in a revue called Cabaret Sauvage in a Spiegeltent in Paris. After one of the shows Belle invited David to listen to her group La Belle Equipe with Potzi on guitar and Francois Jeannin on drums, at the legendary dance hall, Le Balajo.
David Lewis describes the venue as “like something from the pre-war years, although a lot of the dancers were young and seemed to be part of a tribe in Paris recreating the style and music of the rebel Zazou movement from the 1940s and 50s. What I heard and saw charmed me completely.”
“The guitarist Potzi, of Algerian origin, had grown up in the south of France but had been practically adopted by Parisian gypsy musicians and had developed his own unique version of the Django Reinhardt canon. François, the drummer, whose Father had been a bandleader at the mythical Olympia theatre when the likes of Marlene Dietrich and Burt Bacharach were regular performers there, had obviously soaked up all sorts of musical influences as a result.”
“I sat in with them on a version of Ellington’s Caravan and later that night they asked me to join the band, which, a few months later, became Paris Combo. I always thought the band would appeal to audiences outside France because of the profound impression that first meeting made on me, an outsider looking in on their wonderful world!”
A multi-talented actress and musician, Du Berry established herself as a colorful figure on the French indie music scene in the early 90s. Her involvement in the French alternative and punk-rock scenes led her to French singers from the pre-war years such as Arletty (of Les Enfants du Paradis fame), and other pre-Piaf singers with ‘attitude’. She met Potzi and François in the early 90s.
“We played together in a rather strange revue, singing a mixture of old French songs,” says du Berry. “It became popular and soon we were filling an old cinema in Belleville every Sunday, singing and playing completely acoustically. In 1992, we were invited to perform at the closing ceremony of the Albertville Winter Olympics by choreographer Philippe Découflé.”
“When David came into the group in 1994, he encouraged us to play more original material and we started to find our own sound, between the 40s jazz and more recent influences. We honed our skills playing in cafés and on barges on the Seine. A couple of years later we had recorded our first album and played our first concerts in the USA in Louisiana!”
David Lewis has had a diverse musical career in Paris, recording and touring with a variety of artists including Afro-jazz legend Manu Dibango, French pop-singer Arthur H and Italian singer-song-writer Gianmaria Testa. Concurrently with Paris Combo, he has composed for the theatre with Marc François, Noël Casale and Edith Scob including commissions by Festival d’Avignon and Festival d’Automne.
David has composed for film including two scores for documentary director David Bradbury: On Borrowed Time and The Crater – which will be shown on ABC television in 2015. He has also worked with Paris-based artists Lokua Kanza and John Greaves Maurane.
Released just in time for their Australian tour, Paris Combo’s new album 5 is part cabaret, part jazz and part pop, offering up a sassy, seductive series of tracks that will have listeners swooning.
Paris Combo will be performing at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival (7 – 8 June), the City Recital Hall, Sydney (10 June) and the Melbourne Recital Centre (11 June). For more information, visit: www.pariscombo.com for details.
Image: Paris Combo