La Vie en Rose

“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.” Victor Hugo

Be it a small cocktail party or a lavish wedding, music defines the ambiance. Looking to sparkle the mood? French jazz and cabaret music is a change of pace.

France has a long and distinguished history with jazz music. Since the 1930s, American jazz artists have traveled to France - and Paris in particular - to immerse themselves into the romantic, sexy atmosphere. For inspiration first look to Edith Piaf, the sultry, tragic, and iconic French singer who was known as her country’s most popular entertainer. Her ballads of love and longing exude dark smokey romance. Charles Trenet and Maurice Chevalier are equally inspiring, but it was Piaf’s unique gift that brought the French chanson into the forefront of popular music and, to this day, encapsulates the undeniable allure of French love songs. Make sure the playlist includes her most famous song, “La Vie en Rose.”

If the over-the-top stylings of Piaf aren’t your cup of Pastis, take a cue from Depression-Era French music and consider the songbook of Josephine Baker. True cocktail music at its best, her soulful melodies are guaranteed to linger.

Then there is Serge Gainsbourg. His most famous song Je T’aime (Moi Non Plus) is quite possibly the sexiest of all French tunes, as is the steamy story behind it. In 1967, Gainsbourg was involved in an illicit affair with screen siren Brigitte Bardot. Ms. Bardot asked him to write “the most romantic song that you could imagine” for them to perform together. After Bardot’s husband learned of the tryst a year later, Brigitte begged Gainsbourg to refrain from releasing the song; he denied her request and released the song with Jane Birkin instead.

In the 1960s Claude Bolling infused a bit of ragtime into his jazz standards. Its more upbeat, and is great for an event where you want everyone swinging. Imagine a golden-lit ballroom with a 12-piece band playing into the night.

Sometimes having one featured musician can lend a more personal yet highly-stylized touch to an event. For the cocktail hour which allows for a bit of fluidity, have a single guitar player who can specialize in gypsy jazz. Commonly known as manouche jazz, this French innovation blends dark gypsy flavors with a dash of swing, creating a distinctive, soulful sound made famous by Django Reinhart. This genre welcomes collaboration, so feel free to incorporate a violin, clarinet, or accordion for a more full-bodied experience.

French music is sophisticated with just the right amount of allure, creating a feel that is romantic and novel. Think beyond the standards, and choose a highly-regarded genre, one that is sure to please the crowd. Yes, everyone loves la musique française!

Lend me your ear……

Take a moment to enjoy the sounds of Edith Piaf or Josephine Baker.  Then hear Gainbourg’s love song for Bardot including a version with subtitles for those of us who cut French class.  No wonder her hubby was a bit annoyed!

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4 Comments so far

  1. Zena December 4th, 2008

    Your blog is all things fabulous!

  2. admin December 4th, 2008

    Thanks Zena,

    We think the same of you!

  3. Katie January 16th, 2009

    That is one of my ab fab quotes of all time - I sing (Nashvillian - we all have a music story of some sort!), so, it’s kind of a life philosophy of mine - great post!

  4. Tabitha @ Elite Bridal Concierge January 17th, 2009

    I love French jazz and thanks for visiting our blog!! Great blog!

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