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Brad’s Morning Exercise Music Rundown, 9th Installment: Thomas Arlo, Paolo Alderighi (and Stephanie Trick), Juliette Jules, 3rdegree and Forebear

February 9, 2015
bradspurgeon

Sit Ups

Sit Ups

For my ninth “Morning Exercise Rundown,” – the eighth of which ran on 28th June 2014– I am in the unusual situation of having misplaced all of the CDs that I intended to review from the last six months! Yes, having made a recent move, the CDs got misplaced and I have no idea where they are. But since this is possibly the longest period between Morning Exercise rundowns, I decided that I would simply approach this instalment from my memory; That probably means it will be a great instalment because it is made of the stuff that stood out most in my memory over this period. Another slight difference with this rundown is that a lot of the EPs and albums here were listened to online only – not sure why those are the ones I remember too….

The Morning Exercise Music Philosophy

As a reminder to readers, therefore, the idea behind this regular column is that for most of my life I avoided classic daily physical exercise because I felt I was able to avoid it and it bored me to death. In recent years, I had a kind of flash of aged inspiration and realized that I might bore myself to death if I DON’T exercise. (No time in life for exercise? No! No time in life to NOT exercise!) That did not, however, alleviate the boredom of doing them. So it is that when not doing my nighttime exercise of riding my unicycle around the neighborhood – which does NOT bore me – or jogging – which does bore me to a degree – I do my exercises in the morning (sit ups, push ups, etc.) while listening to new (and old) CDs that I acquire from compilations of magazines, that I also occasionally buy or receive from budding musicians at open mics, or any other source.

I do not pretend to be a music critic, but simply to talk about and describe, and give my impressions of the music I listen to during my morning exercises. Keep in mind that my impressions and opinions, therefore, will have been formed while straining to reach a record number of push ups, sit ups, couch ups, stretch downs and simply catching my breath. So maybe my opinion will be warped.

The Haunting Rock ‘n’ Croon of Thomas Arlo

Room EP by Thomas Arlo

Room EP by Thomas Arlo

Thomas Arlo is a young American expat musician who I have seen for years at the open mics, almost always playing solo with his guitar and his interpretations of cover songs – Beirut, Gainsbourg, others – in a voice part rock and part crooner, as well as his own well-constructed songs. There’s a touch of Elvis in the croon, and a touch of I don’t know what in the rock. But there’s truth to it, and an otherworldliness. In any case, when Thomas sent me the link to the songs of his first EP, called “Room,” I was truly delighted to find five recordings done in the same complete simplicity and purity of his performances at the open mics, but with some tracks having light touches of overdubbing, other musicians and instruments, and the most effective, a duet with Amélie Pagenel. I’d also seen Amélie at the open mics, but when I heard her voice here, I wondered who was this amazing singer. Thomas now seems to have disappeared to live in Greece – without a word, without a trace – but we’ve got his music here wherever else we might be in the world, and I highly recommend it. My two favorite songs are “Bolder of Men,” which is constructed in a similar way to “Sympathy for the Devil,” (and a touch of Dylanesque diction and phrasing) but is amazingly haunting. And then I like the one with Amélie, called “Either Way,” with alternating singing between the two. So go and give a listen to this great Room, by Thomas Arlo.

Paolo Alderighi and the Italian Stride Piano

Paolo Alderighi & Stephanie Trick

Paolo Alderighi & Stephanie Trick

A few years ago, while flying from Tokyo back to Paris, I loaded my guitar bag above my seat in the Air France flight, sat down and the young man next to me asked about the guitar. We got into a conversation, and I learned that he was a pianist, Italian, and returning from a concert in Japan. We ended up talking music for most of the night flight, and I even let him hear some of mine. What I learned later was that I had been discussing music with one of Italy’s greatest upcoming jazz pianists on the international scene: Paolo Alderighi. I immediately looked him up on YouTube to hear his music, and found this amazing thing of an Italian playing that distinctive American style of jazz piano known as Stride, that arose in parts of the U.S. in the 1920s and 1930s – notably St. Louis – and that he was highly respected even in the U.S., and around the world. It was only last September that I finally got a couple of his CDs, and had a real good listen. We have met several times in Milan now, when I travel there for the Grand Prix and if he happens to be in town. And since we first met, he has also had a kind of fairy tale meeting with a woman named Stephanie Trick, an American who is a world leader in the stride piano style: The two of them got married, and now in addition to playing concerts separately, they also play together in the magnificent and awe-inspiring “four-hand” mode. So I listened with great self-division as to which thing I preferred: The CD of the two of them together – “Sentimental Journey” – or Paolo’s solo album called “Around Broadway.” The former is full of punch and dazzling fireworks, while the latter takes classic broadway songs – Berline, Gershwin, Rodgers, etc. – as a starting point, and Paolo then flies off into his own bits of interpretation and improvisation. The conclusion? I love both CDs. But I am no expert at all in matters of jazz piano. So how best to describe Paolo’s music? There’s a great description on the liner notes from the respected Michael Steinman: Although some may characterize Paolo Alderighi as “a jazz pianist,” “a fine young musician,” “a gifted improviser,” his true designation is both simpler and more profound. Paolo Alderighi is an artist.

Introducing Juliette Jules – a French Teenager Gone Global

Juliette Jules

Juliette Jules

And speaking of fairy tales, one of the more interesting stories – and voices – that I’ve heard recently is that of a 16-year-old French girl named Juliette Jules, who was playing songs on her guitar in a park in Paris a while back when she was overhead by a Canadian music producer. The Canadian approached her, listened, spoke, queried, whatever… and ended up taking Juliette Jules on as an artist, recording her, promoting her, and now the 16-year-old is in the midst of a fully-fledged career beginning, with great reviews from around the world for Juliette’s first EP, “Black Crow,” containing her own songs but also the Leonard Cohen hit, Hallelujah. She has been praised all over for a voice of experience beyond her years, but for me, years never matter: Only the music counts. I first listened with a sceptical ear, as someone who has attended more open mics around the world than most people, and so heard just about every form of talent that exists. (Well, not quite.) But from my immediate first impressions with an obvious comparison to Lana Del Rey, I’m picking up new sounds and impressions every time I listen. There is definitely something rich and interesting in this woman’s voice. I can’t wait to hear her live, and to see where the next batch of recordings will take us (she recorded a new series last summer). Definitely a cool story.

A Progressive 3rdegree Takes Me Back in Time

3rdDegree

3rdDegree

At the beginning of the era of progressive rock, I was a fan. I listened to bands like Gentle Giant, Genesis, King Crimson, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Van Der Graf Generator, Yes, Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream, you name it. I loved it at the time because it was progressive rock music. It was taking rock into another future realm, going the next step, beyond the clichés, beyond the blues. It was adding a classical element to rock too, in fact, but in a “progressive”-feeling way. I never lost my interest in those bands, really, even if I listen to them rarely now, and have rarely listened to them for decades. So all of this is to expose my musical ignorance by saying that although I only had the vaguest idea that there was still a genre called progressive rock, it was really only in reciving an invitation to download the latest album of a progressive rock band from the U.S. called 3rdegree, which is well known in American progressive rock circles, did I realize that progressive rock had actually ceased to progress much since the days I listened to it. But that is NOT to denigrate it! In fact, if you listen to the blues, you realize that it is a style of play, and that it is made up of certain themes, styles, chords, etc., and that it has not exactly “developed” either. Great musical styles do not necessarily have to develop. So I was completely amazed when I listened to this band that has been around since 1989 was playing music that I completely understood the basis to, felt was speaking a “progressive rock language” and that I could comfortably say I knew where they were coming from. The album, “The Long Division,” (wait, what was that Pink Floyd album? The Division Bell?) just felt so familiar, yet at once different. I could understand and identify with the riffs, I could expect certain themes, knew where they came from, whatever. It was an acquired language. Now, the only thing I can say about my initial feelings about the name of this genre is that I feel it unfortunate that it was ever named “progressive,” since that indicates to me that it should be like a James Joyce situation where each novel gets totally more crazy and progressive than the next… or am I mixing up the idea of “experimental” music and writing…. Anyway, suffice it to say that I got a lot of exercise out of the Long Division and the computing I did in my head over progressive rock….

And Finally, a New Beautiful Indie Band, Called Forebear

Forebear

Forebear

And finally, thanks for having got this far with me, if you did. One of the things that made me get this edition out now, was that just a couple of days ago I received an interesting email via my BradSpurgeonMusic.com site, but referring to this blog, with a few links to the debut EP of an interesting indie band from the U.S. called Forebear, inviting me to download the Forebear EP. I had nothing to listen to for my morning exercises and I immediately downloaded it, and listened. I stopped exercising for a while on a couple of the tracks to listen to the music and lyrics!!! I preferred the slightly slower, more folk-oriented songs – if you can call it folk – and especially loved the guitar on one of the tracks, which reminded me distinctly of the sound of a friend of mine who lives in LA also, and whose 1997 album, “Billy’s Not Bitter,” won an LA Music Award for the best independent album that year. There are some fabulous melodies, I really like the singer’s voice, but that ethereal guitar stuff is the winner. As are some of the lyrics, particularly this one line that really stopped me in my stride: “we are same sides of a different coin/permanently engraved with the year we were born” Just go and check out Forebear’s EP immediately.

Well, that rounds that up. Another, rather large, morning exercise crop of CDs, my ninth edition since I started doing this in April of 2013….

No Real Blues at Le Blues Bar Open Mic in Paris

January 10, 2014
bradspurgeon

Le Blues Bar

Le Blues Bar

PARIS – I heard about this open mic last month well in advance of its debut last night, and I was curious from the start: What would Thomas Arlo do in a completely unknown bar off the beaten path of the majority of Paris open mics, in or around the Latin Quarter? Arlo, who is from California, has been playing in open mics in the Latin Quarter for the last two or three years and recently came up with the idea to host his own in a place called Le Blues Bar, near Montmartre, Pigalle, etc., at the Jules Joffrin metro. If the first night is anything to judge it by, this could turn into a winner.

The bar, which hosts live music regularly, is split into two parts, with a front part devoted to the bar, sports games on TV, a terrace, and a cool choice of beers and spirits, while the back room where the open mic takes place is a warm, intimate room that could hold something like 60 people very tightly fit in. There is a long hallway separating the two halves, and this is ideal to split the clientele into those wanting the music, and those not wanting it.

When I arrived a little late – around 10 PM – I was greeted jovially and with open arms and excitement by one of the bartenders, who saw my guitar and instantly pointed me to the back room of the bar, not even thinking about how I have to order my drink at the front first! So that was a great sign. Here for the music?!! It’s back there! Go play!

So I ordered a drink first, then went to the back room. It turned out to be a fun evening with an eclectic choice of musicians, and it wound up with a bit of a jam. The stage is a neat thing in the corner giving a great sense of being the center of focus of the whole room. The sound system was very clear, but unfortunately there seemed to be some strange split between having to use the monitor speakers overhead for the vocal mic and the wall speakers at the back of the room for the guitar. But I was ultimately very pleased with the quality of the sound system, compared to some of the things you can run into in open mics.

A Wide Variety of Musicians and Styles at Le Blues Bar Open Mic in Paris

The cross-section of music was as immensely different as the musicians and where they came from. I saw Hannah from Melbourne for the second time this week, as she was previously at the Coolin on Monday; there was a reggae act; and a violin player who did a bit of everything, including some insanely crazy vocal acrobatics, most of which I missed on video. There was also the very interesting singer songwriter Matt Lee, who followed his whimsical first song called, “Oh Beautiful Thing,” with his song “Johnny Please Turn Around,” which immediately elicited a desire by the audience to sing along with the chorus. I spoke to Matt afterwards, and discovered that this Englishman – previously of Nottingham, Barcelona and Berlin and now living in Paris – also has a very interesting business as a musician booking agent with a company called Melody Nights.

Thomas did a great, low key job of hosting it. We all got to do two or three songs, and some of us even went up to play more at the end of the evening. Most importantly, I did not see a single complaint made by the bar staff about the volume of the music, which was pretty loud at some points. So they apparently DO want this open mic. The only slightly downside was that given the few number of tables in the front part of the bar, when all those were filled and a group of people came to take a meal, they were guided into the open mic room, and a staff member asked me and another musician to vacate the table so they could seat the diners – who then proceeded to talk throughout most of the acts! This, of course, was understandable for them, of course, although perhaps less so from the bar.

In any case, I really liked the vibe and the potential seems enormous. Don’t be fooled by the bar name, this ain’t no blues jam – even if any kind of music is accepted, including the blues.

So maybe Paris has a new Thursday night open mic to look forward to growing massively? Keep posted here!

Thomas Arlo and the Feisty Pierre Catton at Clin’s Bar in Paris

February 11, 2012
bradspurgeon

Trying to choose between the things I might be able to do last night, I decided I would head over to see a gig in a bar in the 18th Arrondissement of Paris of a friend, Thomas Arlo, and his new musical partner, Pierre Catton. I didn’t expect all that much, although I have always thought that Thomas is a fine and talented singer, both in his native English and French. From California, Thomas has been living in France for the last year or more, and he often plays at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic. When I suddenly noticed that I could attend his gig at Clin’s Bar and then take the same metro across Paris to the Swan Bar and do the “Round Midnight” open mic there, I said, “That’s a plan.”

But once I got to Clin’s and listened to Thomas’s repertoire, both alone and with Pierre, and then Pierre’s solo stuff too, and once I found that I was in great company with a number of regulars from the Ptit Bonheur la Chance, in this very tiny but cool bar, I decided to stay there and not go to the open mic at the Swan Bar. Nothing against the latter, but I was just happy to spend some time amongst friends and good and fun music, and meeting new people too. So that’s what I did.

In fact, it even got really hot and exciting later on when a momentary riot broke out while Pierre was singing a song about three songs from the end of the night. Kind of a mini Altamont, but with no one injured and all ending happily….

Ptit Bonheur at the Ptit Bonheur

January 18, 2012
bradspurgeon

Yesterday I wrote a post about the ups and downs of open mic attendance figures. Today I can write another in that series, as I attended the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic last night and it suddenly returned to its normal level of high attendance, standing room only, and a number of very cool acts.

It all started fairly slowly, but as the evening built up and moved onwards there was an inexorable flow toward a huge audience and more and more people inspired to play inspiring music. The whole first came to an end with the acoustic session in the basement, but that was so much fun that once it went beyond the allowed time to play there – out of respect for neighbors – it carried on in the ground floor bar with a fabulous performance especially by the singing of Morgane sitting at the bar, with Thomas Arlo on the guitar.

This moment reminded me profoundly of the closing of the evening at the Caffe Vivaldi open mic in New York City last August when Kate Sland sang “86d” at the bar with Erik Frandsen providing a guitar and singing accompaniment.

Thomas Arlo had taken over the running of the open mic for the first time, and he lucked into quite a successful evening and did a great job. Actually, I don’t think it was JUST luck, as Thomas had been sending emails out to people saying: “Come!”

Anyway, it was a fun night, and I played my newly learned cover song, “Wicked Game,” of Chris Isaak, and it went over qutie well – thank goodness, as I was worried.

Among the interesting new singers was Kit Buchan with his original song, “Virginia,” and Maddie Speed, from England, whom I had met at Leander Lyons’ show at the Baroc on Friday. Small world. She had some interesting melodies and lyrics and played on a cool Dean guitar, with her lovely voice and presence – which I had missed at the Baroc on Saturday, when she had opened for Leander… as had Ollie, the original founder and MC of the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic. Even smaller world!

Jammin’, Dancin’ and Groovin’ at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance

July 13, 2011
bradspurgeon

It hurts so bad, just trying to keep to myself all the material I want to use in my documentary of the open mics around the world. But I caught a very cool, laid back little jam at the bar last night after the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic had formally ended in the basement room, the “cave.” Here it was Thomas Arlo playing Chardes Bourdon’s Epiphone at the guitar with Vincent Barriquand of the band Black Butterfly, sitting at the bar and jamming – and Ollie’s dog coming up at the end. And this just topped off a beautiful night with the final songs of Ollie closing off the show eliciting the remaining spectators to their feet to dance. Another beautiful moment of a beautiful evening.

It was summertime at Ollie’s open mic, which meant as with the previous week, a different crowd. But some of the regulars nevertheless. And the fact there were so many different people in the audience made me relax and feel I could repeat myself a little, so I did “Borderline,” I did “What’s Up!” and then I took the big risk with “A Change is Gonna Come.” I still did not feel I had done a good job of that song, that I seem to perfect only in my living room. But I recieved some good responses on it and was told that I should do it more.

I had, in fact, faced a big challenge on what to play since immediately before I went up there was this guy Elian Dalmasso, who was extremely interesting. He is a Parisian who lives in London and has a band there called “The Burnetts.” It was his birthday or something, and he had a little group of people with him, and he gave us all a very good little concert – so good that I thought I should put up here three of his songs. But that meant that I had to really search for the right thing to follow him with. I chose my songs for both the contrast to his, and what I thought might engage the audience. It worked.

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