19 July 2009

Bienvenue au Club de Jazz...Nice

I was quite surprised to find myself getting up at 7.30 on the first day of my holiday. I'm not a particularly late riser but 7.30 is still a little too dawn-like for me. In any case, out we went and down the Croisette I ran. It was very hot, even at this early hour, and also extremely windy as the mistral swept its way through. It was all worth it though when 40 minutes later, I ended up at Sunrise Beach, stripped down to my bikini and plunged myself into the sea before swimming out to the pontoon for some somersaulting and diving before drying off and returning home for breakfast, via the boulangerie. It was certainly a very refreshing start to the day.

We spent much of the morning and early afternoon on the beach (well, another beach--Bijou Plage). It was still extremely windy but although this made swimming quite difficult, the mistral was actually very refreshing and I powered through my next book, Curtis Sittenfeld's American Wife.

In Juan Les Pins, a town a few miles east from Cannes along the coast, an annual jazz festival was taking place over the past fortnight--Jazz à Juan (this name reminded me of my college's jazz society, Jazz at Jocks', which used to organise parties once a month, usually with some decent jazz musicians providing the entertainment). Nice Matin, the local rag, has been raving about Brits Jamie Cullum and Alice Russell (who "comes from Brighton, where the biggest festival in Britain is held"--apparently...) and the other J@J acts all week. Yesterday was the final performance--Keith Jarrett (or "Keet J'arrête" as they call him) and his trio (consisting of Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette).

We decided to go to JLP to see whether we could get tickets for Keith and got ourselves some tickets from the cheapest section as the rest were sold out (incidentally, it turned out that our seats, which were in a section that was at the back and slightly at an angle to the stage, actually had a better view than some of the more expensive sections because we were raised from the ground and we were sitting at the front of the section and had a great view of the stage). We had a few hours to kill so we went to the Belle Rive hotel (an old haunt of Fitzgerald's) for cocktails on the terrace of the Fitzgerald Bar overlooking the bay. I had a Violette Fizz, which was very refreshing (violet syrup, gin, lime and Perrier). One guy was sitting there, scribbling away into a leather journal, obviously hoping to capture some of Fitzgerald's spirit. We then went for a quick dinner at Vesuvio before joining the queue to get into the concert venue. JLP is probably the Newquay of the Riviera: it has great beaches but is full of cheap bars and therefore hen parties and similar on a sunny Saturday soir and so had a little of a nightmarish vibe.

As for the jazz itself, it was fun enough, although I prefer my jazz to be a little more vocal than Keith and co. offered. This in itself wouldn't have been so bad if he had been chatty between songs--giving a little background and context or just banter. However, he didn't utter so much as one word all night--not even bonjour or hello, merci or good night. I thought this was somewhat rude given that because of his requests, anyone trying to take a camera into the event had it confiscated (luckily, I got to keep mine as the woman was too busy confiscating Papa's). OK, so a lot of events don't allow photography but they don't usually take your cameras off you. The phrase the staff used was, "out of respect for the artist"; unfortunately, because of his failure to interact with and engage the audience or even acknowledge their presence, I didn't have much respect for him. As such all of my photos are either blurry or have bars through them as I had to stick my camera ever so slightly out of my bag and through the bars...

Nonetheless, he is an amazing pianist (I particularly liked his take on Somewhere from West Side Story, even if I'm embarrassed to admit that I bought the CD single of the Pet Shop Boys' cover; On Green Dolphin Street was good too and not just because it reminded me of the Sebastian Faulks novel by the same name) and the venue itself--the town square in JLP, which is right on the shore--was dramatic enough to make the event feel quite magical even for those who weren't connoisseurs. Watching the sun set over the hills and then the twinkling lights come on in the hills of Vallauris and Golfe-Juan was really special.

The train system in the south of France is less special. The train we had intended to catch to JLP wasn't even shown on the departure board. Returning home, meanwhile, we left the second encore (well, third, technically, because during the first, Keet didn't perform a song) so that we could catch the 11.14 train to Cannes. We arrived with about three minutes to spare and the train was shown on the departure board on the platform. Then, five minutes later, the train disappeared from the board and was replaced by another train 40 minutes later. We weren't impressed--perhaps I will complain less about English trains in the future; they might be expensive and unreliable but at least you are told when they are late and/or cancelled... Never mind...

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