Grégoire Maret Quartet at Jazz Standard in New York

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Herbie Hancock once called Grégoire Maret “one of the most creative musicians  around”. The Geneva-born harmonica sensation lived up to his reputation last week at Jazz Standard, one of the best venues for jazz In New York. He took the stage with his band for a series of 8 shows between May 3rd and May 6th to present his long anticipated self-titled debut album, after spending the past 10 years playing virtually every musical style with many different artists such Pat Metheny, Youssou N’Dour or George Benson.

On May 4th, Grégoire Maret joked on stage about an album, which has been “extremely long to accomplish” . But this sleek musical journey, on which he is joined by harmonica legend Toots Thielemans for a beautiful cover of Ivan Lins’ “O Amor E o Meu Pais”, was definitely worth the wait. With the impeccable support of Frederico Gonzales Peña on piano, an artist he calls his “brother from another mom”, the sytlish Clarence Penn on drums percussions, and the extremely talented Ben Williams on bass, Grégoire Maret offers a modern mix of jazz, soul, blues, pop and Brazilian sounds.

He opened up the show with the percussion-driven Crepuscule Suite, in which his passionate and physical harmonica solos set the tone of the performance. His duet with Frederico Gonzales Peña on “My Loved Ones” was a moment of sheer magic. The Swiss artist was then joined on stage by Raul Midon, a blind guitarist known among other talents for his velvet voice and vocal mouth trumpet sounds. Midon, who worked with Sharika, Stevie Wonder and Little Louie Vega, makes a cameo appearance  alongside Cassandra Wilson on Maret’s album.

At Jazz Standard, Raul Midon provided the vocals for an inspired cover of “The Secret Life of Plants” by Stevie Wonder. On the atmospheric Manha du Sol, he echoed Maret’s harmonica with his vocal mouth trumpet sounds before a sublime finale that lit up the stage and galavanized the crowd. That night, Grégoire Maret powerfully proved once more that the underutilized harmonica can be one of the most beautiful instruments in jazz.

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Tim and Puma Mimi at XPO 929 in Brooklyn

If you are looking for Brooklyn’s underground scene, go to Bushwick . You will find plenty of artists, photographers, rehearsal spaces in old industrial buildings and venues like Xpo 929, where Tim and Puma Mimi performed on Friday night. The electro duo from Zurich is in New York to shoot a video for its upcoming album – The Stone Collection of Tim and Puma Mimi – to be realeased on May 11 in Switzerland (on Mouthwatering records). The band took the opportunity to add a few shows to the trip, including one at Pianos, a well-known venue in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and one in Philadelphia.

Tim and Puma Mimi’s gig at Xpo 929 was a typical New York rock’n roll experience. They found in Bushwick a mostly empty and dark space filled with the lone members from other bands on the lineup and a few post-punk girls with heavy black eyeliner as well a passionate sound engineer pushing up the volume to make up for the pretty bad acoustics. But the duo – Tim (Christian Fischer) and Puma Mimi (Michiko Hanawa) – joined by Swiss drummer Georg Bleikolm from Lausanne stood out with its elaborate mix of electro and rock, English, Japanese and even French lyrics in “Belleville Rendez-vous”, one of the tracks on its new record.

Tim and Puma Mimi performed new material including Q-Cumber, a track on which Tim uses a cucumber to make weird electronic sounds. Tim’s flute solos and Mimi’s frantic dance moves made the 30-minute show all the more interesting. – Jean-Cosme Delaloye

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