Following in the hallowed footsteps of Les Negresses Vertes, Paris Combo is a zany five-piece band who mix musical genres with the greatest of ease. What's more, this rich melting pot of a group is made up of musicians from totally different backgrounds and cultures.
Paris Combo got together in 1995 thanks to the energy and driving force of Benedicte Grimault a.k.a. Belle du Berry. This talented young singer and actress, who was born in Bourges in 1966, has had many years experience on the French music scene. Indeed, Belle has made a name for herself working with a wide variety of groups. After launching her career with PPI (Les Pervers Polymorphes Inorganises), Belle went on to form Les Endimanches in 1988/89 with a group of musician friends. Les Endimanches, who fused traditional French accordion music with covers of 30's chanson classics, soon built up a strong following of fans on the local music scene. The group eventually went their separate ways. But Belle went on to form Les Champetres de Joie with a few ex-members of Les Endimanches, continuing in the same musical vein as before.
In 1992 Benedicte/Belle branched out in a totally new artistic direction. The multi-talented performer began working with the well-known French choreographer Philippe Decoufle, creating a spectacular modern ballet which was performed at the opening ceremony of that year's Winter Olympics (held in Albertville in the French Alps). Once this project was finished Belle would return to the music scene, however, linking up with Potzi and Francois-Francois, a couple of old friends from Cabaret Sauvage (a group she had performed with in the early 80's).
The Combo Is Born
Potzi, a jazz guitarist whose Gypsy style is reminiscent of the late Django Reinhardt and Francois-Francois (a.k.a. Jean-Francois Jeannin), ex-drummer with Cabaret Sauvage and Les Champetres de Joie, decided to team up with Belle and form their own group. The trio promptly went on to recruit David Lewis (an Australian trumpet-player who had already made a name for himself on the French music scene playing with Arthur H and Manu Dibango) and a Madagascan double bass player by the name of Manohisa Razanajato. And thus the fivesome Paris Combo was born! The group's name is directly inspired by their sound - Combo as in the small 30's jazz combos and Paris as in meeting-point/melting-pot of different musical sounds.
The five members of Paris Combo have all had valuable years of stage experience at different points in their career and this greatly enriches the group's live performances. In fact, there's no doubt about it, Paris Combo are at their best live on stage. The group's wacky, upbeat sound fuses Latino and jazz rhythms with Middle Eastern and Gypsy influences, while somehow managing to weave in elements of traditional Paris chanson from the 20's and 30's. (However, make no mistake about it, when it comes to their lyrics, Paris Combo's songs are resolutely rooted in the 90's!) Belle du Berry's charismatic vocals pull this eclectic musical mix together, putting a definitive stamp on the Paris Combo sound.
After building up an excellent reputation for themselves on the live scene, Paris Combo went into the studio to begin work on their debut album. The album, which was released on 20 May 1997, soon spawned a popular first single release, "Moi, mon ame et ma conscience". From that point on the group's professional horizons widened. In August of that year Paris Combo were invited to perform at Popkomm in Germany. On their return to Paris the group would then go on to give a series of concerts at the Guinguette Pirate, a barge/club moored on the banks of the river Seine. By the autumn of 97 Paris Combo had become so popular that they embarked upon a major national tour, bringing the house down when they played in Paris at the New Morning (4 - 6 November).
In January of the following year Paris Combo were invited to perform at MIDEM (the international record industry fair held in Cannes). The group appeared as part of "Talents 98", a series of concerts organised in the "Magic Mirrors" tent which are designed to showcase the hottest up-and-coming talent on the French music scene. In April Paris Combo would go on to bring the house down at the famous Printemps de Bourges festival, before flying out to the States a few days later to appear at the Lafayette Festival in Louisiana.
Paris Combo resumed their hectic schedule on their return to Paris, dashing off to support the American bands G-Love and Special Sauce at Le Bataclan. Fortunately, Paris Combo had enough of their renowned energy left to do the round of the summer festivals. The fivesome proved extremely popular wherever they played, delighting audiences at the Francofolies Festival in Montreal in June then wowing crowds at the French version of Francofolies in La Rochelle in July.
In October 1998 Paris Combo's career received a major boost when the group signed a distribution deal with the American label Tinder Records. This means that Paris Combo is now one of the rare French groups enjoying widespread promotion on the other side of the Atlantic. Paris Combo has already been invited to tour the States - indeed the wacky French band proved a big hit when they performed a mini-tour of nine American towns (March 8-24). Following this successful tour, the band went on to sell 15,000 copies of their album in the U.S. in the space of just two months!
After their triumph in the U.S. Paris Combo went on to release their album in Germany in April '99. And after that it was the turn of Australian fans to discover the zany French fivesome's music. But the highlight of spring '99 was the release of Paris Combo's new CD "Living Room". The twelve tracks on "Living Room" proved to be much in the same vein as their debut album, fusing world rhythms, Middle Eastern sounds, Latin American groove and jazz. Following the release of this new album, Paris Combo hit the road again, setting off on an extensive new tour. As part of this tour, the group performed two concerts at La Maroquinerie in Paris (May 31 and June 1) which were transmitted live over the Internet.
During the first half of the following year, Paris Combo performed on French stages no less than fifty times. Never tired of being on stage, they immediately embarked upon a tour around Australia and the States. They were a big success in both countries, and their album was soon listed on the charts in the world music category. They travelled back to France at the end of the year and gave two gigs at the Olympia on December 6-7th.
For "Living room", which sold more than 100,000, the band had been dealing with an independent label, Boucherie Productions, and Universal had acted as distributor. Their next album, "Attraction", was to come out on Polydor (a subsidiary of Universal) in November 2001. Very faithful to the band's usual production, "Attraction" does not easily fall into a particular musical genre. On the contrary, it offers as great a fusion as ever of many miscellaneous genres. As swingy as the previous albums, it is nevertheless more colourful.
The band, who quickly established themselves as one of France's best-selling musical exports abroad, hit the road again between January and May 2002, performing extensive tours of Australia, Asia and the United States. At the end of April Paris Combo even managed to squeeze in a few gigs at home for French fans. And on 16 May the ever-popular crew embarked upon a nationwide tour which took them through until summer 2002.