Paris Combo: Ooh, La La

Contributed by: Patty-Lynne Herlevi

Paris Combo
Triple Door, Seattle, Washington
October 31, 2005
7:30 p.m. show

Halloween in Seattle is serious business for some. Even on a blustery night,
some partygoers plaster on the make-up, wigs and don an array of creative
costumes. The French in general are not too enthusiastic with the ancient Celtic
holiday turned commercial holiday with a capital “C”. Back in France, the French
celebrate All Saints’ Day and honor the dead from October 31st to November 2nd.
But there wasn’t a saint or chrysanthemum in sight when the French group Paris
Combo hit the stage. The quintet which features a microcosm of the French
Diaspora were good sports. They didn’t seem to mind the costumed folks and even
apologized for appearing underdressed on such an occasion.Vocalist Belle du Berry just couldn’t seem to figure out why no one, costumed or
not, was dancing to the combo’s infectious mix of gypsy swing, French chanson,
Latin rhythms and Turkish-Arabic songs. True to her tenacious French roots, she
persisted, offering up slow sultry songs for lovers and high-octane gypsy swing
for singles to kick up their heels. And to her credit, a small group of
enthusiastic partygoers did some how manage to extricate themselves from the
tables and booths that fill the large venue and fulfill Du Berry’s wishes. But
we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Paris Combo opened the first set of the evening with Je Reve Encore. The witty
Ennemis Siamois, (a song about lovers who are glued to one another). David Lewis
performed double duty bouncing back and forth between a grand piano and the
microphone where he played some very steamy trumpet. The Latin-Cuban Señor
followed this and still the audience members remained anchored to their seats.
While all the musicians were fun to watch, the focus was on French-Algerian
Potzi who resembled a young Django Reinhardt as his fingers set loose on a run
of arpeggios steeped in gypsy swing. For most of the set the guitarist tucked
away in his corner of the stage evoked a vintage image from another era.
Certainly he would have fit into the gypsy jazz scene of the 1930’s, and in the
spirit of Halloween, he was honoring belated jazz legends with his sultry
glances at audience members and his fast fingers on the frets of his acoustic
guitar. Perhaps the audience was too mesmerized to dance.

But back to Du Berry who dusts off a slow and moody number, Sous
La Lune hoping that someone, anyone would take up her offer. Do the people in
Seattle not like Ravel-Satie-esque piano and under water trumpet solos? Ah, oui,
ah, non? Peut-etre? So the group kicked into Hi Low In with its shuffle beat and
swing guitar. Throughout the evening, Paris Combo proved why they are not so
easily categorized and flirted with various music genres from Catalan rumba to
Latin-Cuban and Turkish-Arabic. And by the encore, Du Berry’s persistent charm
and fabulous vocal phrasing, Lewis’ go-man-go trumpet, a rhythm section to die
for and Potzi’s swinging guitar provoked a handful of costumed partygoers to
take a corner of the venue hostage and dance.

Paris Combo has visited the Emerald City (Seattle) a few times already and each
time the group returns with cleverly penned songs laced with Du Berry’s wry
humor. Perhaps next time, the combo will return with a witty song about
Halloween in America. And hopefully, Paris Combo will perform at a venue with a
designated dance floor. Otherwise, these musicians will have patrons dancing on
tabletops and swinging from chandeliers.

Meanwhile in France, trick or treat empowered Halloween and its commercial
allure rallies against a more established tradition. In an ironic turn of
events, an American pop band donning Disney-inspired costumes and candy corn
colored hair apologizes for being overdressed on such a somber occasion. At
least that is how this Francophile imagines it.