Jazz + Paris = beyond description. Of course, you needn’t stretch one bit to imagine jazz in Paris, host to some of the world’s quintessential performers. The City of Light has embraced Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, Nina Simone, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Josephine Baker … just to scratch the proverbial surface.
And one long-running jazz club remains to this day along the ancient rue de la Huchette just a block from the Seine. We met friends at Caveau de la Huchette one evening for one of our most memorable nights in Paris. This Latin Quarter jazz club is one of the oldest with over a half century of entertainment tucked into the inner sanctum.
Through the front doors, a small bar and a few tables greet you, but the best is yet to come. Carefully stepping down twisting, stone steps, we arrive in the musical cellar – indeed a cave that dates back well before 1551, when it was said to be the meeting place of the” Rosicrucians ” and the ” Templers ” – now that’s an exotic heritage and one that seems to seep around you, as you step into this ‘temple of Jazz’.
The bohemian atmosphere cannot help but transport you to earlier eras – when the first jazz in Paris arrived at the caveau, where G.I.’s introduced swing and be-bop, and the music to this day engenders lively dancing and nights of fun. During our inspired evening, one song sticks in the mind – Youssou N’Dour’s passionate “Seven Seconds”. Obviously this is a venue that finds exceptional performers dropping in during the wee small hours. As the band performed the song, a young man joined the singer on stage to mesmerize everyone in the audience. On and on they harmonized, absorbing every nuance of passion in the song, bouncing off one another as musicians are inclined to do – simply incredible!
When we left, we expected the city to be in quiet mode, but Place Saint-Michel was alive with diners and revelers well beyond two a.m. We did manage that evening to roll up the sidewalks of the City of Light, no doubt inspired by the magic we had enjoyed. This was one occasion that awareness of taxis … or the lack thereof … might have been handy. Can’t complain, though, because we walked through the streets of Paris for over an hour enjoying the pools of light on old cobblestone lanes and the more hushed atmosphere of neighborhoods tucked well away from Saint-Michel.
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