"The coolest sounds on either side of the Atlantic." - Billboard
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Four albums and a decade spent touring the globe playing to enthusiastic audiences from Sydney to San Francisco and Berlin to Beirut have enabled Paris Combo to create its own unique world, establishing itself as one of the most piquant, intriguing groups on the international music scene. Fronted by the mischievous vocals of chanteuse Belle du Berry, the combo has struck a positive chord with critics and audiences for their fun-loving mix of jazz, French pop, cabaret, gypsy, Latino and Middle Eastern rhythms.
In the early '90s, du Berry, Potzi and François Jeannin first performed together as members of the offbeat retro revue Champêtres de Joie, playing acoustically in the historic Berry Zèbre cinema in Paris' Belleville district. Together they collaborated with French choreographer Philippe Decouflé at the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Albertville. Du Berry met Australian musician David Lewis in 1994 when both were performers at the inaugural Cabaret Sauvage revue (now a popular venue in Paris) and it was not long before he joined the trio. They were then joined by bassist Mano Razanajato, forming what was to become Paris Combo.
From 1995-97, the group honed their unique style playing in cafés and on barges moored along the Seine. Du Berry, whose musical roots go back to post-punk bands, often cites influences such as Arletty, the French singer-actress of the '30s, but also the Surrealists and a panoply of more recent artists including the B-52's. Potzi's Django-influenced guitar often mixes with François' ska or Latin grooves to create a fascinating blend. Lewis, who had previously played with a wide variety of French bands including Manu Dibango and Arthur H, attributes the group's approach to Paris' cosmopolitan atmosphere.
In 1997, Paris Combo released their eponymous first album on the now-historic indie label, Boucherie (Butchery), and began touring intensively in France. The band's popularity may have coincided with a swing revival in the mid-1990s, but Paris Combo played a more varied set than the retro swing bands. Los Angeles Times' critic Don Heckman declared, "The group's music fits into the swing revival category occupied by such bands as the Squirrel Nut Zippers and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, but their range of styles is far too eclectic to be bunched into a single category." Most critics agreed, attributing to the group such wide-ranging characteristics as French cabaret, rumba, flamenco, Gypsy swing, cool jazz, African, Latin and Middle Eastern styles.
On the heels of the success of their debut CD, Paris Combo released "Living Room" in Europe in 1999 and in the United States the following year. One of the last Boucherie releases, the album was soon re-licensed to Universal in France where it was a gold record with 100,000 albums sold by the end of 2000. The group performed at the iconic Parisian venue l'Olympia to cap-off the year's 120 concerts. This was followed by the release of "Attraction" in 2001, a live album in 2002 and extensive touring in the U.S., Europe, Asia and Australia.
In late 2004, Paris Combo released "Motifs" produced by respected American sound engineer Oz Fritz. As a prelude to the CD's U.S. release, the group performed symphonic arrangements of their set with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Anastasia Tsioulcas declared in Billboard that "Motifs" is "a required cocktail party soundtrack" emphasizing the mainstream appeal of the band, but Paris Combo still refused to be classified, nor did their mainstream appeal diminish their carefully crafted sound. Washington Post critic Mike Joyce wrote "Engaging, clever and cutting by turns, it doesn't take long for ‘Motifs' to prove once again that Paris Combo has carved out a truly distinctive niche for itself..."
In 2010, after an extended sabbatical, the group starting writing and rehearsing again. Belle, Potzi, François and David worked together for over a year composing and arranging new songs and re-discovering their own distinctive group sound, allowing Belle's lyrics to explore the crazy extremes of love - from total obsession ("Je te vois partout") to total forgiveness ("Tout excusé").
At the end of 2011, joined by newcomer Emmanuel Chabbey on bass, Paris Combo made an exclusive comeback appearance at the Hollywood Bowl and began performing their new songs as well as favorites such as "Living Room" and "Señor" in France, Europe and the Middle East. At the same time, they began to record at Labomatic Studios in Paris with star producers Dominique Blanc-Francard and Bénédicte Schmitt (Gainsbourg, Françoise Hardy, Camille). Before the album was finished, rough mixes of songs had started making their way onto radio playlists and compilations in Europe and Australia.
The quintet is back with their fifth studio recording simply titled "5." which has now been released in the US.