mardi, octobre 25, 2005

05.10.24: Le Bilboquet est OK (et bien plus)

I took the metro line 4 to St-Germain-des-Pres to see the district existentialisme remnants. Apparently, this area is famous for smart writers like Hemingway hanging out here in the 20s and 30s (I suppose pre-Spanish revolution), and later still in the 50s for J-P Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, developing their special blend of existentialism. Don't know what it looked like in their day, but very much the nice cafe scene today. Maybe a little heavier on the tourists, and a little lighter on the heavy thinkers than in years past.

But if you forget about trying to find the exact chair at Les Deux Magots that Hemingway sat in while he was musing over ... whatever, and wander around the corner and down one block, you can hear some very nice jazz tunes working their way out of Le Bilboquet.

I sat down for dinner and to listen to the show last Sunday night. 4-person combo. Piano (and vocals), lead guitar, bass, and drums. Basic. Without a doubt the 2nd best pianist I have ever heard. (For the prémiere ... Henry Butler, Christmas Night, Funky Butt's, The Ramparts, New Orleans, 2000). When they opened up with 'And the beat goes on ..' I was a little concerned, but damn if they didn't make that song sound great. La-di-da-di-dee ... la-di-da-di-daah. A big mix, from Rat Pack, to Marley to an excellent rendition of I Put a Spell on You. Now, I'm a fan of Screamin' Jay Hawkins, and I expect Nina Simone might have peddled a few versions around the Paris clubs for many years (recall, after leaving the US in the '70s for racial reasons, and I think passed away last year), but this live jazz version put a big time spell on everybody in the club; and served up with a fondant au chocolat.

[Sidebar: why the heck don't we have this dessert in the US? OK, I think I have had this dessert about half a dozen times so far, and it never disappoints. Basically, it is a single-serving size chocolate cake, bordering on a brownie, but the center is melted (melting?) very dark chocolate. So my question is: how do they bake a little cake in about 5 minutes where the outside is a great little crusty cake, and the center is just melted chocolate? They can be a little inventive over here when they want to be. I will not leave here until I know how this is done. I have also seen it on menus as: moelleux au chocolat and moyenne cuit (sp?) chocolat. Maybe I have become a little obsessed with this.]

It all came together when they launched into a very jazzy-blues version of The Wind Cries Mary; I think Jimi would have been proud (and I didn't hear any rumblings to the contrary from Père Lachaise, either). Sometimes you are in a club and the atmosphere, the music, the food, and the conversation works itself into a very nice fondant au soirée. Le Bilboquet is a pretty good place to start. That's a brand of existentialism that I can hold on to.

La-di-da-di-dee ... la-di-da-di-daah.

[Addendum: There is a jazz radio station here that gets me back and forth to work every day; even in the nastiest traffic Paris has to dish out (well, sans riot zones), this station keeps me sane and entertained. They also stream on the web, so you should check it out ... TSF 89.9 FM - Tout Jazz.]