Unlike the Seattle formation Pearl Django which concentrates on the Hot Club period of Reinhardt and Grappelli, Paris Combo transfers the past smack into present times to rub shoulders with cosmopolitan influences. Listening to them makes you feel as though you'd just stepped into Rick's Cafe Americain set not in mid-war Casablanca but 21st century Paris. Reminiscent of the very witty lyrics of Oscar Hammel and his earlier collaborators from Fatal Mambo, the Paris Combo with lead vocalist and lyricist Du Berry is equally fond of the bizarre and twisted on their latest, Motifs. "Imagine if chance sat down at my dinner party and decided, late in the evening, to turn me into a fork, a plate-picking thief - would I still get my song? If these prongs, simply for eating purposes, gave off no particular note as a simple fork, would I still get my song?"
The quintessential musette-style Parisian lineup of vocals, accordion, guitar, violin, double bass and percussion finds itself jazzed up US-style compliments of Aussie trumpeteer David Lewis who also sits in on bugle, piano and melodica as well as special guests on cello, saxophone, bass clarinet and trombone. Core member Potzi on guitar adds potent doses of Reinhardt-style Gypsy Jazz but also detours into Arabian inflections helped by his Algerian ancestry.
Motifs is recorded testament to a prior tour during which Paris Combo got to try out the material on life audiences and refine the tunes in the process. Co-producer Oz Fritz joined the album project after having experienced the group on tour and adds his considerable experience of both studio and live sound to maintain the vivacious vibe of the tour. Much of the material is straight-ahead swing with a shrunk big-band feel created by Lewis' smoking trumpet. He's equally comfortable in muted deep-Jazz and Latin/Cuban styles and just as easily adapts to the Jazz Manouche interludes to remind us of the ensemble's headquarters.
"I'm like a sheep in its field or a cigarette butt under a steel heel - I don't know, I don't know who to smoke" of "Je ne sais qui fumer" reflects on someone who has overdosed on night life while "Baron de chaise" attacks greed and corruption with the chorus "The rewards of labor are no longer a worthy goal, the important thing is doing deals and ripping off whoever I can." "Aquarium" condemns life lived through the television with "I'm going round and round in my box like a fish in a furnished aquarium", "Prete a porter" (ready to wear) comments on being poor in a consumer society. Mixing biting social commentary with wistful meditations on what it means to be human in today's upside-down world while embedding everything in swinging tunes allows Paris Combo to be clever while still going down easy and sans pretensions. It's a very successful recipe that doesn't take itself serious and charms precisely because of it.