Egalitarianism in France has extended just as much to art as it has to political or social status. The concert hall and the street have been membranous forms. Musicians have composed to poetry. There would be no Django Reinhardt without Ravel, no Jacques Brel or Serge Gainsbourg without Poulenc. French art is republican art. Chanson began in the 1930s with the likes of Charles Trenet and Georges Brassens and has thrived ever since, arguably embodied in English work, more recently in the work of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen particularly.
Adelaide-based Louise Blackwell (who resided and studied in France for more than a decade) was accompanied by the French Set consisting of Mark Ferguson (piano), Gary Isaacs (guitar), John Aue (double bass) and Julian Ferraretto (violin) who treated the almost full house at Nexus Cabaret to a tasty array of classic chansons from its pre-War origins to its poster ‘naughty boy’, Serge Gainsbourg.
Blackwell’s top is a trifle thin and nasal, though some may well argue that this rather appropriate here; she fared best with Boris Vian’s Je Bois (I drink), Gainsbourg’s La Javanese and Brassens’ Chanson Pour L’Auvergnaut. King Louis, a song that runs through the fates of the sixteen King Louis’ who ruled France, seemed disturbingly contemporary noting that another bewigged demagogue is running rampant at the moment and Piaf’s rousing L’ Accordioniste was a wonderful finale.
Ferguson and Isaacs were solid as always, as was Aue who has accompanied jazz legends including the late bop word-twister Mark Murphy. However, the pièce de résistance, the toffee on the crème brûlée, was Ferraretto’s fiddle and bow, channeling Stéphane Grappelli at every turn.
A Night in Paris II plays at Nexus Arts until March 19 as part of Adelaide Fringe Festival