St. Germain | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

St. Germain 

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St. Germain

Young French DJ and producer Ludovic Navarre--who's released two albums of ambient jazz et cetera as St. Germain, a name he shares with his five-piece band--has attracted a mob of sycophantic fans masquerading as reviewers, and collectively they seem to think his recent Tourist (Blue Note) is our era's answer to the Miles Davis masterpiece Kind of Blue. I can't quite get behind that, but the comparison does bear up in one respect: Kind of Blue summed up the 50s with sleek contemplativeness, yet looked forward to the tumultuous 60s by introducing a new freedom to Davis's music (modal improvisation); Navarre sums up the cultural concerns of the revivalist 90s by collaging house music, dub, blues, and his own techno past into carefully constructed soundscapes. (Being French and all, Navarre invests most of this music with a wisp of cool introspection--which, I suspect, is what raised Davis's ghost in the first place.) Navarre lacks Davis's intuitive improvisational insight, but he does have a genuine gift for incorporating the thick, meaty instrumental voices of mainstream jazz. The contributions of his sidemen--particularly the steely trumpet of Pascal Ohse and the simmering woodwinds of Edouard Labor--anchor the synth and studio work, their unreconstructed jazz timbres providing ballast to his slickly moody mix of electronic sounds. St. Germain's music springs from the rootstock of acid jazz--the funky rhythms and neon sounds of the late 60s and early 70s--but its full flower is Navarre's upbeat, layered evocation of the French melancholia exemplified by classic pop singers like Piaf and Aznavour. Keyboardist Alexandre Destrez and percussionist Edmondo Carneiro round out the lineup; Navarre, who freely admits he's "not a musician," directs from his computer. Saturday, December 9, 10 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203.

NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/P. Mazzoni.

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