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Changes at Shapko Bar in Nice – and a Word on Marjorie Martinez and Wednesday Night

May 24, 2014
bradspurgeon

Marjorie Martinez

Marjorie Martinez

NICE, France – My feeling is that it is better to be late and short than to completely ignore my experience playing my songs, and listening to those of Marjorie Martinez, at Shapko Bar in Nice on Wednesday night. I mean, here I am on the Riviera, having suddenly disappeared from this blog and got sucked up by the sudden appearance of sunlight and sea air – or something like that.

But the more important reason for writing a post here on my evening playing music at Shapko Bar in Nice on Wednesday night is for the record of this blog: I’ve written about the amazing Shapko Bar on rue Rossetti in the old town of Nice since 2011. It became the highlight for me of coming to play in Nice.

So it was at first a shock to arrive for the Wednesday night jam session at Shapko and to find that rather than a band occupying the neat little stage on the lower part of the room it was now several tables full of patrons sitting there drinking, talking, and listening to the music of a woman playing at the mic on the new stage area in front of the bar at the front of the venue.

I learned immediately that Dimitri Shapko, the wonderful Russian saxophone player who founded the bar had just recently sold it to a new owner. I then approached the woman behind the mic – with her Gibson acoustic – after she finished her set, and I asked her if there was some kind of open jam, as there always had been. She said, “No,” but then immediately, in the spirit of Shapko, said that if I wanted to play some songs I could.

So I took the stage after her next set and I sang three or four songs, mostly mine, and “Wicked Game.” I then later spoke to the new owner of the bar, and he said he planned to continue the same spirit of the old Shapko bar – and he has maintained the same name – including having any concerts that start the evening finish as a jam. But there is also an official jam session night on Thursdays, and any kind of music goes.

A Change of Ownership at Shapko Bar

So the good news is that we have not entirely lost Shapko Bar. But let’s see how it develops….

In the meantime, Marjorie Martinez impressed the hell out of me: She had a very cool way of playing that guitar, ranging from folk rock, soft rock and blues into some very adept and fabulous sounding jazz stuff. That came in handy when she opened the stage for the jam, and a saxophone player went up and jammed with her. I mention Marjorie’s range and guitar playing first, but it is her singing voice that is the real center of her show: She sounds like a cross between Rickie Lee Jones, Joni Mitchell and Bonnie Raitt.

She is French, but her English accent is almost impeccable. In fact, in the gig it was impeccable. It was just in hearing her on her albums – that I bought and later listened to, that I noticed the slightest hint of a French accent. She writes most of her own music, but does not shy away from cover songs either, especially the jazz stuff. In fact, a lot of her own songs have a jazz feel to them in parts, and her backing musicians are clearly jazz-oriented. A very, very interesting discovery, this Marjorie Martinez of the French Riviera – because she is a local….

Jack Daniel and Friends at Shapko in Nice

May 24, 2012
bradspurgeon

Shapko Bar Nice

Shapko Bar Nice

Fishing around for places to play in Nice, I was always going to try out the amazing Shapko bar on the rue Rossetti. And last night, I was in the presence of my friend Baptiste W. Hamon, the inimitable French redneck hillbilly singer songwriter, and it turned out that the theme of the music at Shapko was fairly close to redneck, so I thought Baptiste and I should make a visit.

We had also been considering going to King’s Pub again, where I had played the night before and was invited to play again last night. But I really wanted to take another look at Shapko, where I managed to play some songs last year during a similar acoustic night, hosted by someone else – Peter Cogavin. Peter, in fact, told me yesterday that he knew the guy hosting the evening at Shapko, and that he thought he might be open to letting me play.

That guy was a British musician with the somewhat bourbon soaked hillbilly name of Jack Daniel. It is his real name. And he plays a wicked fingerpicking blues and country guitar and lays a nice laid back vocal on top of it. He had a harmonica player, and then his “friends,” who joined in as the even progressed.

Shapko, the man who owns the bar, is a saxophone player from Russia, and he is a real mean sax player. I mean good, not nasty. He is also a music-loving performer who opens his stage to other players as much as he can while maintaining a good professional business and show. I was really flattered when I walked in last night and he immediately remembered me, although I had visited his bar only twice last year: ‘The Canadian!” he said.

At the break, I spoke to Jack Daniel about the possibility of playing, and he more or less accepted. But as the evening went on with the second set, it became clear that the music was moving further and further away from what either I or Baptiste do, so we ultimately decided to cut out and check out the scene at the King’s Pub. It turned out that that was pretty quiet and the musicians were doing a long set, and we ultimately decided that it was getting too late to hang around much longer. So we both left and went our ways.

But the night was really enriching in terms of the music at Shapko, which was fabulous – especially in the middle of the jam during the second set.

Playing at the Extraordinary Shapko Bar in Nice

May 26, 2011
bradspurgeon

I discovered the Shapko Bar in Nice on Tuesday evening as I was walking around the streets with a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness as I sought a place to play. As I mentioned on the previous post, I had decided to pass by and mourn the passing of Johnny’s Wine Bar, and it turned out that right next door on rue Rossetti was this Shapko bar and standing outside of it was Mr. Dimitri Shapko himself and we struck up a conversation.

I told him a little bit about what I was doing, but not much. In fact, maybe I just told him I was looking for a place to play, and I also told him I had been in Istanbul and found Nublu, which also exists in New York City, and which is also a venue – like Shapko’s – that is run by a saxophone player. Shapko being a very cool seeming guy with open ideas, invited me to show up last night – the following day – as it was the one night of the week where the music was not jazz, but more folk, pop, rock. He said his regular musician for that night was an Irishman named Peter Cogavin, and he said Peter called his night, “Peter Cogavin and Friends,” and that there was a chance Peter would let me get up and play. Peter, he said, did that a lot – he was very open too.

So I went, I found the bar to be a fabulous venue, great little stage, nice sound system, several listening areas, big crowd of listeners, and above all a general ambience of the kind I love, with Peter Cogavin being not only a fabulous singer and good guitar player, but as Dimitri said, very open and friendly to other musicians. Peter played most of the evening, and he invited me up to play after his first set. I did four songs. He also invited up a friend of his from Ireland who had never played in public before, and it was the guy’s birthday, he did a song and it was interesting. Later on, Jake Hall, one of the buskers I met the previous night took the stage and played as well, doing that tapping stuff he did with my guitar, but also singing in his rich, deep voice.

It turned out the rest of the busking band was there too, and now I learned their name: Hobo Chic. I had, in fact, found them on the street busking before I went to Shapko’s and I did some videos of them. I was also there when a French painter named Morassut gave them a painting of them that he did.

But back to Shapko’s bar. No, back to Shapko. I have not yet heard his music, but I am very keen to do so, because after discovering Ilhan Ersahin in Istanbul, I think I have just discovered another very interesting sax player, if Shapko’s biography on his bar’s web site is anything to go by. Shapko, who is from Russia, has played with an extraordinary number of top musicians, such as “Wynton Marsalis, Al Grey, Doc Cheatham, Benny Waters, Lionel Hampton, Clark Terry, Sol Yeaget, Lorna Watson, Ali Jackson, Jeniffer Vincent, Steve Kirby , Debora Brown, Rob Agerbeek , Doug Sides , Margorie Barns and Debora Carter.

And he has played with his band at the Newport Jazz Festival, The North Sea Jazz Festival, The Montreaux Jazz, Juan Les Pins Festival, Maastricht Jazz Festival, Breda Jazz Festival, Harlem Jazz Festival, New York Jazz Festival, Festival du Jazz du St.Germain Des Pres, Montreal Jazz Festival, Vancouver Jazz Fesival, Calgary Jazz Festival and many others.

Pretty impressive. And here he is running a very cool venue in Nice. What a discovery. And what an honor to have played there! It was, in essence, if not strictly speaking, an open mic. I even managed to interview Peter for my film.

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