PARIS COMBO – France Is Part Of Paris Combo, As Much As Its Players

Ahead of their Australian return, multi-instrumentalist David Lewis explains Paris Combo‘s delicate balance and Rip Nicholson discovers what octopus traps and heartbreaks have to do with each other.

PARIS COMBO interviewed February 3, 2017
For Street Press Australia [VIEW HERE]

Paris Combo derives a deep richness and texture through its eclectic core members; chanteuse Belle du Berry’s post-punk vocals, the mononymous Potzi’s Django Reinhardt-inspired Romani guitar and banjo, and drummer Jean-Francois Jeannin’s diverse grooves. Drawing on a spectrum arching from American to gypsy jazz, chanson, cabaret and Middle Eastern rhythms, this Paris-based outfit is the sum of its parts in the truest sense.

So when Australian-born trumpeter and pianist David Lewis joined the band in the mid-’90s, he felt its direction shift. “Because I was coming from a more general jazz and classical background, it was big,” recalls Lewis. “It was also when we started working on original material, which was a watershed.”

Something else that has shifted Paris Combo’s direction over the years is their revolving line-up of bassists. They’ve seen four come and go in their two decades, with each bringing a unique personal influence to the recordings and live output of the group. The latest is double bass virtuoso Benoit Dunoyer De Segonzac who “has had a really interesting experience playing with The Jacques Loussier Trio,” says Lewis, commending his bandmate. “He’s a very interesting freelance bass player.”

“I don’t think we’ve made a concerted effort to make it sound French.”

As they close in on their 20th anniversary, the quintet continues to excel at a distinctly cosmopolitan brand of world music yet, despite their locale, Lewis explains they never set out to make ‘French music’ per se. “I don’t think we’ve made a concerted effort to make it sound French. That’s part and parcel of who we are and the band members are based in France and of course with Belle singing in French, which is very important in that mix.”

During the ’00s Paris Combo took a four-year hiatus, finally reuniting in 2010. They spent a year writing, rehearsing and rediscovering their je ne sais quoi. This therapeutic pause resulted in their fifth album, 2013’s acclaimed 5, and a rekindling of the band’s union. It’s a bit like a couple breaking up and getting back together again, instead of just plugging along and getting to a stage where you can’t ever work again. We’d done ten years from when I came into the band until we had a break. That’s fuelled the fact that we’re able to get back together again and resume the career, which was obviously a result of having that time off.”

After extensive touring in years since, Paris Combo have dropped their sixth album Takotsubo. The title comes from a case of cardiomyopathy (that’s heart disease), named after Japanese octopus traps, which is brought on by emotional stress and known colloquially as Broken-Heart Syndrome. The medical condition correlates directly to the concept of their latest work: “The idea of the lyrics on the album is how the body reacts organically to stress and emotional states,” explains Lewis.

Only landing in February, the album preempts Paris Combo’s latest return to Australian shores, their Sydney kick off at City Recital Hall marking their fifth trip Down Under. “We have an ongoing story with Australia. We released our first album in Australia quite early on and there were some good tours right from the start. It’s great we are able to come back.”

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