Denim & Diamonds 2019

An Evening in Paris

This coming Friday is the big day.  We will be playing for the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center Foundation’s annual big event, Denim & Diamonds, to be held at the Little America Hotel and Resort in Cheyenne.  This year, the theme is “An Evening in Paris.” 

Django, Grappelli and Gypsy Swing

I was delighted when I learned about this year’s theme because I love this genre. It made me think about two famous French jazz musicians–guitarist, Django Reinhardt, and Stephane Grappelli, jazz violinist.    These men co-founded the Quintette du Hot Club de France in  1934 and popularized a distinctive style of jazz we call gypsy swing.  This was a uniquely French phenomenon but would not have developed the way it did if they had not been listening to American jazz. American players and composers like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington were a major inspiration and musicians, Coleman Hawkins, for example, worked in France before WWII and American standards along. These tunes became part of the gypsy jazz tradition, songs like “Sweet Georgia Brown,” “St. Louis Blues,” and “Honeysuckle Rose” that we associate with the Hot Club de France.   

Our set list for Friday includes many tunes written by or popularized by Reinhardt and Grappelli including “Daphne”, “Nuage,” “Minor Swing,” “Limehouse Blues,”and “The Sheik of Araby.”    I wanted to emulate this sound, and so I was thrilled when I was able to recruit Jane Uitti on jazz violin and Matt Fuller on guitar for this performance.  These songs showcase Jane’s virtuosity on jazz violin and Matt’s fabulous guitar work. 

I hear an accordion and it reminds me of Paris

I cannot think about French cabaret music without hearing an accordion in my mind, so I’m delighted that Rodney Sauer will also be joining us on Friday.  Last month, I had the pleasure of playing with Rodney for the CRMC Hospital Week celebration, and we had such a great time as a duo performance and had a lot of fun with many of these tunes. 

Rodney Sauer

Rodney is stunning on piano as well as accordion.  His musical interests include folk dance music, vintage ballroom dance, and silent film scoring with his nationally touring quintet, the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.   He is also a composer, and we will be playing his original musette entitled “Will You Go to France?” that I love. 

Latin music, especially tango, is part of the music of Paris

Carlos Gardel

Another thing I love about Paris is that it has always been alive with the music of diverse cultures, especially Latin American countries.  Because of this, we’ll also be playing a number of Latin tunes as a counterpoint to the gypsy swing. Tango is an important part of the sound of Paris. When I saw people dancing the tango for the first time, it was was on the banks of the Seine about fifteen years ago.   I was mesmerized. One tune, in particular, that I love to play is “Por Una Cabeza” which you’ll recall from Schinder’s List and The Scent of a Woman.   This song was written by a French Argentinian, Carlos Gardel who was born in France, but as a child emigrated to Buenos Aires where he became known internationally as “The King of Tango” for his compositions and masterpiece recordings. 

My Favorite French Songs and Singers

Finally, I have pay tribute to some of my favorite singers including Edith Piaf and Yves Montand as well as to the great American performer and Francophile, Earth Kitt. Ms. Kitt was fluent in French and recorded many classic French tunes putting her own saucy stamp on them.  We will be playing many of my favorite French cabaret tunes including “La Vie en Rose,” Edith Piaf’s signature song released in 1945–you’ll remember Lady Gaga’s mesmerizing performance of this song in A Star is Born. I’m also doing “Sous le Ciel de Paris (Under the Paris Skies),” and “C’est si Bon.”  Below is a link to Eartha Kitt’s cheeky version that I love. 

The band for this event

  • Jane Robinett–vocals
  • Jane Uitti on violin
  • Rodney Sauer on accordion
  • Matt Fuller on guitar
  • Dennis Griffing on bass
  • Clare Church on drums

One more thing . . .

Below is a link to a music video from the French band, ZAZ, doing a hip version of the classic, Sous le Ciel de Paris. I’ve watched this at least twenty-five times. It’s great.