The chill winter night seemed almost too perfect a climate for going to see experimental music at La Cour. The bar/restaurant, with its Parisian flair, had a modern take on Japanese classical art hanging on the inside walls. Outside, there was a glass-walled fire in the center of a stone table on the patio. And if you arrived before 10 p.m., the sounds of the Stephen Brooks Trio could be heard inside and out. Had you not been upstairs, where the trio was playing you'd think it was an especially good live jazz record from decades ago. Following that set came "James Jewkes' Soirée à La Cour!" featuring Bios+a+ic, Anna Smith and Of Earth and Sun. While not jazz, it all seemed to make sense at a place that clearly favors a combination of classic sophistication and an openness to new ideas and people.
As the first of many similarly-themed events to come featuring mostly experimental and avant-garde artists, Jewkes brought in some friends that would perhaps challenge some sensibilities but not completely alienate anyone coming by for a drink. Some may know Jewkes from his current involvement with the Kappa Cell and various improv groups, but also from his old, experimental funk band Good Grime Sound System. During the show, the affable and gregarious Jewkes also collaborated with Wesley Davis, the founder of the monthly ambient music series Textures at Mutiny Information Café, in Bios+a+ic and on one song with Anna Smith of Ancient Elk and The Circus House.
The event took place on the second floor of the restaurant, where two main rooms were appointed as an old style café, giving a similar feel to the one at Weathervane Café. The menu featured some real French cuisine, including escargot. The atmosphere was simple but varied and tasteful.
Bios+a+ic, with Jewkes on guitar playing to Wesley Davis' melancholy, processed trumpet was like ambient jazz, the sound of a late night lounge in an east coast near future, science fiction film noir. Anna Smith's folk-inflected acoustic guitar and vocal performance had a sparseness and otherworldly tonal inflection reminiscent of early Joanna Newsom. Closing out the night were the primeval sounds of Of Earth and Sun. Matthew Hunzeker with his array of unusual instruments -- all made of animal bones and horns, and his loops, minimalist rhythms and sense of completely unconventional composition sounded like something from another time -- like cave paintings in the Lascaux Caves or the paintings at Uluru given voice.
The diverse bill following a tight jazz trio merely cemented the impression that La Cour is a place where taste and adventurousness can come together in a welcoming environment.
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