The outdoor concerts at the North Carolina Museum of Art are consistently not to be missed, and the NCMA's presentation of the Paris Combo in the Museum Park was no exception. Hailing from Paris, France, and celebrating two decades of performances together, the Paris Combo describe themselves (via an Instagram bio) as "French pop jazz world hybrid." This probably best describes the infectious and smooth jazz-pop combination that the audience at the NCMA enjoyed. The spectacular vocalist Belle du Berry is often considered the headliner of the group (indeed, she is the founder), but guitarist Potzi (a one-name artist), percussionist François-François (also known as François Jeannin), contrabassist Benoit Dunoyer de Segonzac, and trumpeter and pianist David Lewis dazzled the audience just as much. The ensemble was also joined by Remy Kaprielan, who provided additional percussion (bongos) and sometimes, the soprano sax. Kaprielan was not listed as an official member of the Paris Combo, but often he plays with the group on tours and adds a lovely extra dimension to the music.
Together, the six musicians onstage provided a soundtrack to the perfect late summer night – a starry, clear sky and trees with chirping crickets (and no threat of rain, thankfully). Playing songs collaged from their seven studio albums, the group invited audience members to dance the night away, and dance they did! That's not to say that every number was the same – songs like "Specimen" (from their latest album, Tako Tsubo) offered a sensual swing, but "Señor" (from the 2005 album Live) was Spanish-infused and heavily rhythmic. "Living Room" and "Tako Tsubo" (both serve as names of album titles, too) leaned more towards French pop music in style. Despite all of these different genres taking shape in the Paris Combos' program, the concert itself was quite seamless.
Throughout the kaleidoscopic program, the talent of the six musicians cannot be overstated. Berry's sultry yet energetic vocals united the textures that were created and supported by Segonzac's bassline. Lewis was a sight to see, sometimes playing the piano with the left hand and trumpet with the right – simultaneously. Potzi, on the acoustic guitar, shone especially in solo moments with melodies that seemed to be improvised according to the song. For "Je Rêve Encore" (I'm Still Dreaming), Kaprielan suddenly produced a soprano saxophone and played in harmony with Lewis (on the trumpet). Through it all, François-François kept the mood going with percussion while supplying additional vocals.
After night fell, the Paris Combo closed the concert with not one but two encores that were great contrasts to one another. "Vaille que Vaille," a biting, swaying waltz, was contrasted with a selection more reminiscent of fiery disco. Both songs kept the audience on their feet and dancing until the very last notes were played. This concert wasn't the first time that the NCMA has welcomed the Paris Combo, and hopefully it will be far from the last!