Sweet Jazz at Theatre du Chatelet

By Paul Prescott

Ryoko Nuruki   photo credit ©Paul Prescott & ©ParisKarin aka karinlynn68

Ryoko Nuruki Asian Bird (Integral Distribution)

The warm spring air trapped in the Théâtre du Châtelet foyer was cut by the rustling wings of a little bird. Ryoko flitted into the center of the room with the hem of her kimono flapping about her petite frame until she alit at the piano and the night took flight…

Ryoko Nuruki is an artist who deftly hops among her roles of musician, singer and composer. Native to Kagoshima, Japan, she descended temporarily in Italy and Canada before landing in Nice. After forming The Ryoko Trio with bassist Marc Peillon and El Fakir Abou (percussion), Ryoko continued her flights of fancy, often solo, which brought her to the intimate show in Paris.

The Théâtre du Châtelet concert highlighted beautifully the simple complexity of her art. Performing first in a Japanese kimono, Ryoko drifted among the different currents of traditional Japanese (even playing the “sanshin”—think three-stringed Okinawan banjo), classical and jazz music without ever settling on just one branch. After a short break, she returned barefoot and in a sheer black blouse where she danced around on her piano seat, sometimes playing standing up, but never veering from her controlled flight pattern.

Ryoko was in Paris promoting her latest CD, Asian Bird. Just as in her show, the songs on Asian Bird contain a perfect harmony of dulcet opposites: easily accessible music that is at once light and dark, fun but serious, soaring yet remaining down to earth. The album, recorded live at the Festival de Cap d’Ail in July 2010, carries the listener away on stirring wings without letting them down until the final note of the final song.

To view a video clip of this performance, click and go to YouTube.

Fay Claassen  Sing! (Integral Distribution)

Dutch singer Fay Claassen also graced the foyer of the Théâtre du Châtelet this spring and her concert was just as soulful. That’s where the comparisons end, however, for where Ryoko’s music was introspective and personal, Claassen took pages from a more traditional song book.

Fay Claassen makes the most of her purely perfect voice to sing the praises of popular jazz standards. Sing!, her sixth and most recent effort, is a Big Band tribute to the great jazz female vocalists and while the songs it covers may be classics, her take on them makes them uniquely her own.

The March 30 show was an added pleasure because it was a stripped down version of the CD, as her performing band (WDR Big Band Cologne) could not attend from Germany. The “unplugged” concert was a treat and an opportunity for Claassen to showcase her fantastic voice. Her somewhat throaty patter disappeared the instant she began to sing and she went through much of the track listing of Sing!, often commenting on favorite lyrics and explaining why she chose the song for the collection. “You can never lose a thing if it belongs to you,” she sang a cappella at the end of Abbey Lincoln’s “Throw It Away,” and it rang true, for she could never lose the crowd as we belonged to her.

To view a promotional video for Fay Claassen's CD Sing!, click to go to YouTube.

Paul Prescott has written several articles for BonjourParis, most recently a review of Monumenta 2011. More at his Paris Inspired website or write to him at Paul Prescott.

Photo credits:

CD covers courtesy of Integral Distribution

Concert photos ©Paul Prescott and ©ParisKarin aka karinlynn68

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