?uestlove explaining The Paris Lockdown at Thursday’s press conference. [photo by JEFF FUSCO]
BY JONATHAN VALANIA Back in 2010, ?uestlove was commissioned by PIFA to assemble a collaborative performance piece with the French musicians of his choice that honored the festival’s somewhat amorphous and esoteric premise, i.e. channeling the modernist cultural vibe of Paris circa 1910 to 1920 and connecting it somehow to the modern day cultural fabric of Philadelphia, the Roots drummer said during a hastily called press conference/sneak preview on Thursday. He said he then went down the wish list of present day French musos, including Air and Charlotte Gainsbourg and eventually settled on Parisian neo-torch singer Keren Ann.
Collaborating long distance Skype and email, they hatched a plan to interpolate pieces by early 20th Century French composers like Erik Satie, Ravel and Debussy through the prism of modern-day hip-hop and indie rock. ?uestlove then assembled a cast of players to pull it off: saxaphonist David Murray (who ?uestlove calls the legit heir to John Coltrane); James Poyser from the Roots on keyboards; vocalists Amber Coffman and Haley Dekle of the Dirty Projectors (who trilled on The Roots’ “A Peace Of Light”); longtime Roots arrangers Larry Gold and Daniel Felsenfield; along with Pallavi Mahidhara (piano/acoustic guitar), D.D. Jackson (piano/acoustic), Anthony Tidd (bass/keyboards), Derrick Hodge on bass and conductor Andrew Cyr.
They are calling it The Paris Lockdown, and ?uestlove says he hopes the audience will have a visceral response to the performance, not unlike the way the audience rioted at the premier of Stravinsky’s “Rite Of Spring” — but minus the destruction and rotten fruit-throwing. Well, we’ll find out on Sunday when Paris Lockdown premiers at the Kimmel Center.