The Eddy: a love letter to jazz in modern, multicultural Paris
There are big names in The Eddy, a Netflix series about a struggling jazz club in Paris. But the real star is jazz. And since coronavirus is depriving us of the thrill of live music, the jazz sessions recorded with its own six-piece band provide music lovers a much needed fix. Composer Glen Ballard and saxophonist Jowee Omicil talk about the joy of putting music first.
All the songs in The Eddy were written by award-winning American composers Glen Ballard and Randy Kerber.
The series began with a song and an idea back in 2007.
“Ive lived in Paris off and on all my adult life," Ballard told RFI. "And I've always loved the fact that Paris still had jazz clubs, still had young people going to the clubs, listening to music being played live.
"So I had this concept of a club that I called The Eddy: a perfect jazz club where you could go and have the greatest band in the world and a great singer, and you could find some kind of connection with that music and work out some of your own problems.”
That “greatest band” is the Eddy Cast Band - formed especially for the series with Ludovic Louis (trumpet), Damian Nueva (double bass), Jowee Omicil (saxophone) Randy Kerber (piano) Lada Obradovic (drums) and Joanna Kulig on vocals.
“It's a truly international band showing that jazz is an international language now,” said Ballard. “We have a drummer from Croatia, a sax player from Haiti, a bass player from Cuba, a piano player from the U.S., a trumpet player from Paris and a singer from Poland. But they all share the same language which is jazz and it's really high musicianship.”
“It was an honour to play with all of these musicians, it's truly an 'All Star' band,” said Paris-based Jowee Omicil who plays Joey the saxophonist.
The first two episodes of The Eddy were directed by Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle. He insisted the jazz sessions in the club be recorded live.
“We're playing for real so if you're messing up it's gonna show,”Omicil recalled. "There were many 'one takes'!”
Glen Ballard meanwhile wanted the music to be easy to listen to, but difficult to play. Omicil said they succeeded.
“I was telling Randy Kerber and also Glen: 'I feel like I'm back at Berkeley, 19 years old in 1997 and I gotta learn how to play to play this music, this tradition of music, but from today'. They evolved the music, we went into pop and electronic.”
The composers didn't want The Eddy to be a nostalgia trip to the jazz of Paris St Germain of the 50s and 60s when figures like Miles Davis found solace and respect in its jazz caverns.
“Our jazz sits beautifully with hip hop and we have a lot of North African influences coming into our music through (French rapper) Sopico especially,” said Ballard. “We try to study the North African movement in jazz and marry it to what is a truly international band.”
Whatever the style of jazz, the important thing is to keep it live.
“We don't have a lot of times where we can have music in the forefront like that,” said Omicil, “where you could see musicians processing music and conducting their lives.”
The series was released on 8 May when France and much of the world was still in lockdown. A pertinent time for watching musicians performing live.
“People say: 'I'm going to The Eddy tonight'. They are actually taking the Netflix series to go and travel to places where they cannot go today,” said Omicil. “I mean you cannot go to a club and have an audience. We mustn't forget that the audience feeds us.”
The idea of playing in empty venues "doesn't have the same dynamic".
Glen Ballard remains grateful to screenwriter Jack Thorne for allowing music to play such a central part in the drama.
“It's truly a love letter to these incredible musicians who dedicate their whole life to learning how to play an instrument and they don't do it for money or fame because you don't get famous for being a jazz musician in 2020. It's also a love letter to all the people who still want to do it, who put years of work into it for these great moments to happen on stage.”
Omicil can't wait to get back on stage.
“The lockdown was an unwanted lockdown, it's as if we got locked up. And now we are excited. So we want to keep this excitement going.”
He recorded some 15 hours of music during that time and will release an album, Lecture, this autumn.
“It's gonna be different, very controversial, perhaps. It's something I had to get out my system because it's really free music.”
He still believes in the 'we are one' idea he explored on his previous album “Love Matters”. But admits that in the wake of the death of George Floyd and the need to remind the world that black lives matter, we clearly haven't reached that level of consciousness.
“We must not forget we are all creatures on this planet. It's true we're not there and since we're not there we're at war. So we need to move, very wisely and carefully, with harmony. We're back to music and that's a positive note right there.”
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