‘Nous N’irons Pas à New York’
The evening I spent at Duc des Lombards jazz club in Paris was so surreal that it could have been a dream. My memory of it is hazy with wine and warmth, and the atonality of the music. Catia Werneck and her band played on a small, raised stage under purple light, and for an hour, we were all her willing captives. Her mechanical hips moved to the rhythm of the bass drum as she sang. When she wasn’t singing, she danced. It was as if her high heels were bewitched, destined to shuffle and twist and kick; it just so happened that her feet were inside them.
The music was the puppeteer, and everyone in that room was on strings.
A couple on a table across from us held each other tight. She had her eyes closed and her head rolled back onto him. His gaze never once left the stage. Occasionally he’d frown. Deep, thoughtful lines of interest wore into his forehead, spurred by a change of pace or a particularly adventurous section of improvisation.
On occasion, a clink of glass coming from the bar behind us punctuated the programme. The barman had stepped out of the fifties wearing a neat waistcoat and a wonderfully thick and curly moustache. One by one, he hand-dried and polished wine glasses before placing them on an overhead rack. When an audience member would negotiate their way up through the tables to refresh their glass, he’d throw the serviette over his slender shoulder, and smile. It wasn’t an employee of hospitality smile; more a smile of someone who simply loved jazz.
We had chosen to sit at the front left of the stage. Our pre-show view was of a beautiful black Yamaha grand piano. My fingers itched, which makes me smile now, imagining what I would have done compared to the senseless skill of the sinfully handsome pianist. I watched his shoulder blades shift over one another, controlling his long, dark fingers’ flurry over the keys. He was pushing the instrument. Testing it, toying with it. Daring its white and black to illustrate the colours behind his eyes.
Even an eternity would have been too soon for the music to finish. By the time we stepped outside with red palms and squinting eyes, I felt like I had come out of a trance. It was then that I knew I needed to preserve it in writing. In slightly ropey French, I asked a nearby smoker to borrow her lighter. She handed me a dark little BIC – a perfect commemoration of that dark little room, where for an evening, magic happened.
Editor: Floss Hafter-Smith