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Django Reinhardt

Posted by Whitmore, January 23, 2010 08:41pm | Post a Comment

Legendary Jazz guitarist  Django Reinhardt was born 100 years ago today, the 23rd of January, 1910.

From the Gypsy camps where he learned to play to his Quintette du Hot Club de France fame in the Parisian jazz scene, the man’s style has probably been ripped off more times than any other guitarist of the 20th century. His playing was joyous, often wild, always expressive and lyrical. His legend was sealed way before his early death from a brain hemorrhage at the age of 43.
 
The most amazing story about Reinhardt is, of course, how at the age 18 he was caught in a caravan fire that left his left hand partially paralyzed. As the story goes, one night on his way to bed he knocked over a lit candle, it hit the floor, catching some artificial flowers made off celluloid and paper on fire. Everything, caravan and all instantly burst into flames. His injuries, from trying to save his pregnant first wife, Florine "Bella" Mayer, were severe. The entire right side of his body was badly burned, especially his leg, which doctors intended to amputate. His left hand, his fretting hand, was also horribly burned. Reinhardt would spend over a year in and out of hospitals. He was never expected to play again, but his brother bought him a new guitar, urging him to give it a try. With only the index and middle fingers on his left/fret hand for soloing, and his two twisted fingers for simple chord work, he re-invented his own technique.
 
Happy Birthday Django Reinhardt!



JULY 14th IS BASTILLE DAY

Posted by Billyjam, July 14, 2009 05:00pm | Post a Comment

Today, July 14th, is Bastille Day 2009; the day that marked the storming of the oppressive Bastille prison and the beginning of the French Revolution 220 years ago. Over in France this morning there were parades and tonight they are having firework displays in recognition of the holiday. Actually, this has already taken place since they in France are 9 hours ahead of us here in Cali -- see video above of tonight's fireworks in Paris by the Eiffel Tower.

Over here in the States many folks are also celebrating -- some using it as a good excuse to get their swerve on and sip some French themed drinks. In San Francisco there are quite a few events scheduled. Click this link from the French Consulate for a listing of SF Bastille Day events.

But nothing Stateside comes close to the big event over in Paris, as witnessed from the videos above and also below of last year's Bastille Day, courtesy of the Associated Press, when thousands of people thronged the Champs-Elysee to watch a military parade and celebrate Bastille Day. French President Nicholas Sarkozy is among the many present.


Elli et Jacno... et Lio. Les electro-ye-yes

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 6, 2009 09:13pm | Post a Comment
Denis Quillard (born in 1957) came from an eccentric but distinguished family in Champagne. A chainsmoking fan of Gauloises, he was known to some as "Jacno," after Marcel Jacno, the illustrator who designed the cigarette manufacturer's logo. Jacno had learned to play flute at a religious school in Margency, Notre-Dame-de-Bury. As a child his musical heroes had been Chopin, Mozart and Satie, but as a young teenager, he gravitated toward The Who and The Rolling Stones. At fourteen, he took a job as a messenger boy, enabling him to buy a guitar. He also grew increasingly rebellious, experimenting with drugs, engaging in petty theft, and being expelled from a succession of schools. In 1973, he formed a short-lived band called Bloodsuckers.

Elli Medeiros was born January 18, 1956 in Montevideo, Uruguay. Her mother, Mirtha Medeiros, was an actress, and as a child, Elli also appeared in Uruguayan film, stage and TV productions. In the early '70s, along with her mother and her stepfather, she moved to Paris. The following year, at a protest, Elli and Jacno crossed paths. Soon, the two began dating and plotted a musical career.

   

In 1976, Elli and Jacno (joined by Bruno Carone, Albin Dériat and Hervé Zénouda) formed Les Stinky Toys in Rennes, Brittany. They played their first gig as Les Stinky Toys on the fourth of July, 1976. Les Stinky Toys quickly garnered a reputation as a willing and fairly able band who played several notable performances, including at London's 100 Club alongside The Buzzcocks, The Clash, The Damned, The Sex Pistols and Siouxsie & the Banshees. That came about after Malcolm McLaren discovered the band at a boutique in Les Halles. The notoriously hype-loving Melody Maker featured them on their cover. Conversely, the notoriously bitchy Trouser Press described them as "uninspired sub-Rolling Stones rock'n'boogie with terrible vocals by Elli Medeiros." In March of 1977, they played with Generation X, The Jam and The Police at Le Palais des Glaces. Soon after, they signed with Polydor and released their debut single, "Boozy Creed," followed by an album, Plastic Faces.

Stinky Toys - "Plastic Faces" 1977
Uploaded by giomog

That same year, Kraftwerk went on a press tour by train to promote Trans-Europa Express and the notorious gatecrasher, Jacno, met them. The meeting seemed to have a profound effect on him, and his musical course began to change not long after. After being dropped by their label, Stinky Toys signed with Vogue. Their second album (sometimes known as La jeune) sold poorly, despite being an improvement. A gig at Le Palais des Arts was crashed by the Hell's Angels, who started a fight, leaving one fan dead. The band parted ways.

JACNO - "Rectangle" 1980
Uploaded by chris591972

Jacno's next work was a minimalist electropop EP, Rectangle (1979-Celluloïd). Far ahead of its time, it was turned down by many labels. Today it sounds like the missing link between Kraftwerk and Novelty Rock-era Denim. A writer for Cahiers du cinéma, Olivier Assayas (well-known now as the director of Irma Vep), had used Jacno's music in his film, Copyright, and subsequently made a music video called Rectangle: Deux chansons de Jacno (1980). Radio station Europe 1 picked up the song "Rectangle" for its theme music and it reached number one in several countries and was even used in a Nesquick ad.


1980 - Nesquick
Uploaded by fifitou

One song off of Rectangle, "Anne cherchait l'amour," featured Elli singing on the otherwise instrumental record. In 1980, they reteamed with the vision of updating the yé-yés of the '60s for the electropop era. Elli and Jacno's debut, Tout va sauter did well, buoyed by the success of "Main dans la main" and "L'age atomique."


The previous year, a Portuguese-cum-Belgian singer, Wanda Maria Ribeiro Furtado Tavares de Vasconcelos, taking the stage name and persona Lio (from Jean-Claude Forest's comic character from Barbarella) and aspring to combine her love of Blondie, Kraftwerk and Motown, teamed with Telex's Marc Moulin and scored a million-selling hit with "Le banana split," a thinly-veiled ode to fellatio. Having much in common with Ellie et Jacno, she approached them about collaborating and they gave her "Amoureux solitaires" which sold several million copies. Over the next few years, Lio and Elli et Jacno's updated yé-yé produced several musical gems.



Lio - "Amoureux Solitaires" (1981)
Uploaded by juanfrance


Elli et Jacno - "Oh la la" 1982
Uploaded by giomog

Elli et Jacno - "Le telephone" 1982
Uploaded by giomog

Jacno ended up working mostly over the following years as a producer. In 1982, Elli et Jacno had a baby, Calypso, and released Boomerang before ending both their personal partnership. After creating the score for Eric Rohmer's Les nuits de la pleine lune in 1984, the two dissolved their musical partnership as well.
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Jacno has released the solo works T'es loin, T'es près (1989), Faux témoin (1995) and French paradoxe (2002). Lio went on to work with the Sparks and embarked on an acting career, appearing several times in the films of noted cinematic pioneer Chantal Ackerman. Elli Medeiros has released the tropical-flavored Bom bom (1987) and the bilingual EM (2005), in addition to working steadily as an actress since the '90s.

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Jules Lion

Posted by Whitmore, February 28, 2009 03:07pm | Post a Comment
The daguerreotype was the precursor to the modern photography process; an image is exposed directly onto a highly polished silver metal plate, its surface coated with silver halide particles deposited by iodine vapor-- a later advancement was the use of bromine and chlorine vapors to shorten the exposure time. The daguerreotype produced a negative image, but the mirrored surface of the plate reflects the captured image, making it appear positive once light is exposed to the photograph. Early experimenters had tinkered with the idea of photography for over a hundred years, but it was Louis Daguerre who finally perfected the technique in about 1839. Less then a year later the rich history of American photography began in New Orleans at #3 St Charles Street, in the private studio/residence of Jules Lion, "a freeman of color," who opened the first daguerreotype studio in New Orleans and one of the very first in the entire United States.
 
Born in 1810 in Paris, France, Jules Lion was the first of about fifty documented black daguerreotypists who operated galleries/studios in the first half of the 19th century in the U.S. He originally moved to New Orleans from France in 1837 where he was a lithographer and portrait painter -- at the Exposition of Paris of 1833 he was the youngest lithographer to be awarded an honorable mention. It’s believed that Lion returned briefly to Paris in 1839 and 1840 to study photography with Louis Daguerre. Upon his return Lion exhibited his first daguerreotypes in New Orleans in 1840; unfortunately only a couple of them have survived. By 1841 in New Orleans, he was lecturing on photography, co-founded an art school and was running a successful studio. Not much more is known of Jules Lion, except the occasional newspaper announcement and city records listing him as a professor of drawing at the College of Louisiana from 1852 to 1865. In his later years he returned to painting portraitures. Among his most famous commissions were portraits of President Andrew Jackson and naturalist John J. Audubon. Throughout his career he continued teaching and occasionally returning to Paris to exhibit his lithographs and daguerreotypes until his death in New Orleans in 1866.

a year in music

Posted by Whitmore, January 16, 2009 04:59pm | Post a Comment
Since the first of the New Year I’ve been trying to decide on what music releases might have been my favorites of 2008. But as I rifled through my addled opinions, I suddenly realized I was shockingly unaware of anything going on in music in ‘08. This goes to show you how much attention I pay to the goings on around me at Amoeba. I think I need to get out of the used 45 room a bit more, though it’s hard to do … it’s like a record geek Shangri-la in there!
 
Between my obsession with the Presidential election, the Dodgers pennant hopes, a Top Chef / Project Runway fixation, and just being wrapped up in my own primitive world, most of my information came by way of an occasional obituary, never ending music-celeb scandal sheet fodder or random music pouring from some car pulling up alongside me at a red light. I guess I can list my favorite old 45’s I discovered this past year, but they have little to do with ’08, let alone this century. I only bought a handful of CD’s last year. A few that come to mind are the Antony and the Johnson’s CD, a Mighty Hannibal collection, and Baden Powell’s Canto on Guitar but none of them were released in 2008. I didn’t download any new music either and though I probably bought some 30 DVD’s and maybe as many as 40 books last year; once again, I’m not sure if any of those titles were actually released or published in 2008.
 
So then I started thinking about all the gigs and concerts I went to … and once again I drew a blank. There are years that fly by, and then there was 2008 which seemed to last only about 37 and a half hours … and I must have slept through most of it.
 
Then again I did have two great adventures last year. A three week tour in Italy where we played some great gigs, but more notably I ate some incredibly delicious food. And a two week vacation in Paris, which I wrote laboriously about over the holidays, where once again it was all about the food. However, during both trips there were two unusually great musical moments that came out of nowhere. Unfortunately both events are probably knee deep in that “you had to be there” category, but what the hell …
 
In Florence after playing a show, we were all invited to stay at a friend of a friend’s 15th century farmhouse in the hills of Tuscany, about a half an hour away. But first we had to meet our host at a club not far down the road, located in an old, abandoned Catholic church. From the outside it looked like most any other 600 year old building, inside some of the original religious elements were still intact, not many, but enough to realize that this used to be a place of worship. What really surprised me was the music; tangos and only tangos. It was a tango club. On the dance floor were the most perfectly attired, gorgeous collection of people I think I’ve ever seen gathered in one room in my life; and I looked like hell. Most of dancers moved in the traditional Argentinean or Uruguayan steps of “the forbidden dance,” and a few other couples who hadn’t yet perfected the tango just playfully toyed with the chest to chest embrace, spinning hip to hip, tearing it up in their own way. The music selection was perfect; the volume was nice and low so the conversations around us were lively and intimate. The room was pretty brightly lit so you could see the pick-ups and make-out romances at the tables along the walls. Dozens, and I mean dozens, of wine bottles were strewn around the perimeter of the dance floor. There was one helluva sensual vibe in the room. And I don’t mean that last-call-desperate-to-get-laid kind of vibe either. Anyway, I’ve always been fascinated by Tango music, from the early songs of Carlos Gardel, to the orchestras of Juan D'Arienzo, to the Nuevo Tango of Ástor Piazzolla. That night with a bottle of wine in my hand, I just sat in the corner --but not too far from the heat of the dancers -- listening to the rhythms and I was at home!
 
If you’ve ever taken the Metro in Paris, chances are you’ve been accosted by a musician performing on the subway train. More often than not, what the captive audience gets is a mediocre accordion or bandoneón player or some guy with a guitar singing some song you’ve heard way too many times and never need hear again, let alone a sorry ass rendition. Rarely does the music stir anything except irritation. But on this last visit to Paris we were riding on the number 8 Metro, towards Alfortville, to see some friends. An accordion player stepped on board, and instantly a slight frown appeared on practically every face but the musician’s. He stood in the center of our train, started playing, and something came alive. People perked up, turned around and actually looked him in the eyes. He was masterful. Playing a couple of jazz standards which I should know the titles of but I can never remember, his tone was insanely beautiful, simply faultless. He improvised fluidly and soulfully, without that annoying bravado street musicians might shove down your throat in order to be noticed. In a matter of moments he made something happen, an intangible skill few musicians possess no matter how trained and studied they might be. This portly, unattractive accordion player with a bad haircut had the musical equivalent of “it!" After a couple of minutes he gathered a few coins from his audience and moved forward to the next train car.
 


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