Aron and Adb al Malik

It seems everyone ends up in Paris, eventually.  Aron Ottignon was raised in Auckland, New Zealand and I knew him when he was still a prodigious jazz pianist, playing professional gigs around town at an unusually young age.

Since then Aron’s played his way through the scenes in Sydney and London, released a solo album under the name Aronas, and now he’s ended up in Paris, playing with rapper Abd Al Malik.

As well as touring with Abd al Malik, Aron has appeared with the band on French TV shows such as Le Grand Journal, and earlier this year played at the Victoires de la Musique in Lille:

Aron was sneaky enough to film this very performance from his own perspective, on his iPhone…

And, if you’re quick, you can even see his iPhone in the live footage from France 4! :

Poni Hoax

Poni Hoax are a band from Paris. They sing in English, and have been playing since 2001, but I don’t think they’ve yet quite crossed the watery divide between French indie acclaim and anglo-saxon stardom.  Navigating between the austerity of Kraftwerk and the masculine emotion of The Doors, there’s something about their electro-disco style that suits these grey times.

In addition, as befits a consciously stylish band from the city of Gainsbourg and Godard, their video clips are top notch piece of film-making. Antibodies features a naked chick and a bubble in an airport:

And The Paper Bride features a man, a swimming pool and a dance:

Behind the Lines

When one posts a Phil Collins video, one is on shaky ground. However, music from your childhood sticks in your memory like week-old pesto to a fridge wall. And this is a day to scrape off some of that green gunk.

My clueless 13 year-old self received a double album on cassette (Face Value/Hello, I Must be Going) as a birthday present, and not knowing any better, I decided I quite liked it.

I soon learned to keep such opinions to myself: and to day, this double cassette remains the only Collins in my collection. I soon found other monstrosities to obsess over (who remembers Arrested Development?).

And I still think my favourite Phil Collins song is this one: it features the horns from Earth Wind and Fire, and is really a Genesis song, so there.

Betty Carter in 1990

There’s been a ferocious email debate going on among some of my friends this week regarding Betty Carter.

Is she the greatest jazz singer ever, or a warbling charlatan who destroyed every song she touched? 

With Betty, there seems to be no middle ground. Either you love her, or you hate her.

This is Betty Carter and her trio, playing one of her own songs, “Dropping Things“… with a nice nod to Art Blakey at the end…

Betty Carter (vocal)
Marc Carey (piano)
Dwayne Burno (bass)
Gregory Hutchinson (drums)

Lisbon, Portgual – October 1990, at the Galp Jazz Festival

Cuong Vu

Cuong Vu Trio playing “Vina’s Lullaby

Cuong Vu – trumpet
Stomu Takeishi – bass
Ted Poor – drums

Live at Berklee College of Music (date unknown)

Random Act of Culture

I rather thought that this was a fabulous idea: a “flash mob” choir of 650, singing the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah in Macy’s department store in Philadelphia, surprising the early Christmas shoppers.

They were accompanied by the shop’s pipe organ (only in America), which is apparently the largest pipe organ in the world (also, only in America).

It’d be great to do something like this in Paris… perhaps in Printemps or the Les Halles shopping centre?

Someday We’ll All Be Free

This week’s musical interlude is courtesy of the Miguel Atwood Ferguson Ensemble, performing Donny Hathaway‘s Someday We’ll All Be Free. This video was shot live a few weeks ago at California Plaza in Los Angeles.

Bilal Oliver does a fine job shadowing the original vocal style of Mr Hathaway on this song. He will have his own album Air Tight’s Revenge out in September… could be worth checking out.

What’s even better is that the mp3 of this performance is available as a free download!

Oxford State of Mind


Summer in Oxford: a rock band plays to the cows in Port Meadow

Over the weekend I was back in Oxford to catch up with some friends. While I don’t miss England that much, I do miss Oxford and its mix of grand architecture, rural landscapes and casual intellectualism.

While I was walking around town, I took some video of life on the river and in Christ Church Meadow. Hopefully it gives an impression of a lazy summer weekend in the most beautiful town in England.

The song I’ve used as soundtrack is “Summer’s Here” by Zim Grady, a band from Abingdon.

O’Spada: From Stockholm with Love

In May 2009, I remixed a track by O’Spada, and this Swedish band haven’t looked back since. They’ve now released their first album, Pay Off, a disc that is poised to furnish lounges and clubs around the world. It’s out now on Despotz.

O’Spada‘s debut album is chock-full of spiky, swaggering funk tunes, built around the in-your-face vocals of singer and principal songwriter Julia. Here’s a taste:

If I called their music “bulletproof prog-disco assembled by an unholy alliance of astromech droids and the Daleks “, then I would be guilty of using too many ridiculous metaphors, but I will have come close to describing the O’Spada sound.

The tone of the album tends towards darkness but there are bright moments. The shuffle-time Rainbow (with its ooo-wah vocals) edges towards Motown and provides a respite from the brain-freezing grooves that dominate the rest of the disc.

Most of all, O’Spada comes across as fresh, and rather unlike any other band I know. There’s a Swedish accent in the vocals, jangly rhythm guitar, irony-free slap bass, and ferocious sawtooth synthesizer licks that sound like they’re played by a dude with a Patrick Swayze haircut.

What more could you wish for?

Well, a tour maybe. O’Spada are in London in mid-June to promote the album. If you’re in town make sure you catch them before they’re Bigger than Bieber-Hur.

London city tour dates:

14 Jun Hoxton Bar And Kitchen
15 Jun Dublin Castle
17 Jun St. Pancras International
17 Jun YoYo @ Nottinghill Arts Club
18 Jun Last FM presents… @ Big Chill House
20 Jun The Luxe

The Marché des Arceaux in 60 Seconds

This weekend was spent back in Montpellier, catching up with friends. On Saturday morning I visited the Marché des Arceaux with Ed Ward (read his Montpellier blog here).

With up to 80 local farmers and producers turning up each week, this is Montpellier’s premier source of fresh food in Montpellier – always worth a stop if you’re in town on a Saturday or a Tuesday!