A magical evening of French music played out in Phoenix on Saturday, January 26 as the seven-piece band Paris Chansons transformed the music theater at the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) into a lively Parisian music hall. The band played a generous 28-song set to an audience comprised both of folks who spoke French and those who did not, but it wasn't necessary to speak any particular language in order to enjoy the show. As if to indicate just that, the evening's program began with an instrumental, a segment of Edith Piaf's L'hymne à L'amour."
Paris Chansons features three vocalists: guitarist Jacob Kantor, his wife Julia Kantor and Max Cohen. While most numbers were sung in French, Jacob sang the first vocal number in English, very appropriately a song called "I Love Paris." The cut was quite subdued at its beginning but then drummer Sinclair Lott kicked in with a big beat and the song took on a rollicking nature. Cohen was then highlighted on a block of songs, crooning his way through the swinging Enrico Macias cut "L'orientale," two other Macias cuts and Charles Aznavour's "La Boheme." Before he sang "Tomba la Neige," which translates to "snow fell" Cohen said "I'm going to bring you some snow" and afterwards quipped "Are you cold now?"
Cohen wasn't the only one adding humor to the show; Jacob, who is a native of Russia, assured the crowd that he is quite French, joking that 25% of his body weight is French, a product of eating croissants. And introducing his wife, Kantor noted that Julia was the only band member he had children with. A segment featuring the couple began with a take on the sassy "Je Veux," a cover originally done by contemporary French singer Zaz, and also included a stunning original cut from Jacob called "Mon Amour" on which the guitarist used a looping pedal to enhance his guitar sound. Jacob also took a turn at singing in Russian on "Gop Stop" where bass player Adam Cohen played some hot riffs on his big upright bass.
After a brief intermission the band returned for a second set and again began with an instrumental, this time with the well-known Hungarian song "Czardas" which was a showcase for violinist Endre Balogh. In another nod to how the entire show began, Jacob then sang another of his originals, the bluesy "I Love Paris Too." Julia sang lead on Romanian classic "Johnny," a track made famous by Edith Piaf, and shared the spotlight with Jacob on a set that featured more Piaf as well as another Aznavour cut. As the show neared its close the crowd was very responsive, clapping and singing along to a mashup of "Toda" with "Hava Nagila," the Russian Gypsy song "Ochi Chorniye" and closing number, the raucous "Zingarella." Choosing not to leave the stage before their encore, Paris Chansons played "Milisee Mou" for their first encore and then did something unique and fun, a New Year's Eve-style countdown from 10. Noting that many folks didn't have a chance to celebrate New Year's Eve in the traditional way, Julia said that here was a bit of a make-good. Ultimately the show concluded with a take on "Those Were the Days," the old Russian song that was a hit in English for Mary Hopkin in 1968. The song was a perfect au revoir to a great band and a night of fine international music. Jeff Lams on keyboards rounded out the group this evening.
Follow Paris Chansons here.
For the complete list of shows coming to MIM go here.
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