Paris Saint-Germain-des-Prés Jazz Festival Platforms New Music

by Sean Hillen

Paris consolidated its reputation as a leading-edge music destination by introducing virtual reality technology into its diverse 21st Saint-Germain-des-Prés Jazz Festival this week. 

Photos by Columbia Hillen

Organised by the Association L’esprit Jazz in collaboration with the BNP Paribas Foundation and other partners, the festival combines concerts, conferences, interviews and masterclasses in historic locations such as Saint-Germain-des-Prés church, Odéon Theater, Maison des Océans, Paris-Sorbonne University, Panthéon-Assas University and Musée of Cluny.

One of the more innovative presentations during the six-day festival was by Dan Tepfer entitled ‘Natural Machines,’ exploring the intersection in music between natural and mechanical processes. 

As Tepfer, who has a background in computer programming, explained, “All great music exists at the intersection of the spiritual and the algorithmic. Like good architecture, good music has strong structure. The surface of music is often above all emotional and spiritual, but it is also supported by logical systems, which gives it a feeling of depth and stability.”

During his performance before an enthusiastic audience at Maison des Océans, Tepfer, a gifted pianist, illustrated his theory by showing how a computer interacted with him in real time by commanding his piano to play complementary musical notes to those he was playing. Audience members watched this ‘duet’ unfold on a giant screen above the stage and also enjoyed virtual reality images accompanying the music on special headsets. 

In addition to Tepfer’s innovative technological view of music, other festival performers took a more traditional approach. Preceding Tepfer on the same evening’s program was the virtuoso duet of trumpet player Airelle Besson and accordionist, Lionel Suarez, whose precise melodic inter-relationship was both lively and playful, so much so that a rapturous audience persuaded them to re-emerge from backstage twice to play encores.

Earlier in the festival, singer-songwriter Marion Rampal sang songs from her latest album ‘Tisse,’ influenced by folk, cajun, blues, soul and Maloya musical traditions. Her support group included the sextet of Pierre-Francois Blanchard (piano and keyboards); Sébastien Llado (trombone and conques); Matthis Pascaud (guitar); Simon Tailleu (doublebass); and Raphaël Chassin (drums), plus special guests Naïssam Jalal on flute and singer, Piers Faccini.

Other performers at the festival included the Kyle Eastwood Quintet, Sophia Domancich and Simon Goubert, Henri Texier and Thomas Enhco and Stephanie Kerecki.    


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