I am such a bad progger.
I mean, here I was, just two blocks away from the Eastman Theater, where King Crimson was playing, and I was on Jazz Street watching the free entertainment, eating poutine and drinking beer.
OK. Judge all you want. Because in the process of not seeing the iconic Mr. Fripp and his musical entourage (including Tony Levin and Gavin Harrison, two of my personal musical heroes), I stumbled upon another, different kind of big band that brought a smile to my face and some pep to my (dub)step.
I could write a whole post on serendipity and music, about how an accidental turn of a radio dial or a chance encounter with a warmup band made me a lifelong fan of particular act. And while I am not sure I will become a lifelong fan of Caravan Palace, their show at the Rochester Jazz Fest has definitely put them on my radar and opened my ears to their particularly eclectic hybrid of EDM and — ready for it?– 1930s jazz.
Prog it was not, but the songs managed to twist and turn in subtle, satisfying ways that more pedestrian EDM, with its relentlessly pumping four-on-the-floor bass drum rhythms, fails to do. The juxtaposition of traditional swing jazz with techno beats may sound like a musical oxymoron, but in the hands of this accomplished seven-piece Parisian outfit, Django meets deadmau5 meets the cantina band from Star Wars all kinda makes sense.
Because Caravan Palace is more than the electronic wizardry of Antoine Toustou, whose contributions to the evening also extended to playing trombone and some frenetic swing dancing with vocalist Zoé Colotis. No, it’s also about an incredibly versatile combination of guitar, upright bass, violin, saxophone, clarinet, vibraphone and upright piano, sometimes all in the same song.
It was a combination that certainly managed to achieve that most difficult of feats with a festival crowd: appeal to all sections of the audience equally. So while the twenty-somethings jumped up and down like they were at a rave, the older folk stayed to the end, swaying and nodding in appreciation and clearly enjoying being a part of the spectacle unfolding before them.
It is never easy to pass the old gray whistle test in a setting like this. So take a well-deserved bow, violinist Hugues Payen and saxophonist Camille Chapelière for your tireless efforts. And while we’re at it, let’s give an honorable mention to Charles Delaport, who donned suspenders and rolled up his shirt sleeves to put in a workmanlike shift on double bass and, indubitablement, the effervescent Mlle Colotis, who presided over the controlled mayhem, lindy-hopping and jitterbugging throughout the evening with an ever-present smile that lit up the stage.
I may end up regretting missing King Crimson — who knows when they will pass this way again — but I know I won’t forget my chance encounter with this energetic septet who managed to make the mercury rise even higher on a warm June night.