Fans of piano jazz know Evan Mook from his gigs tickling the 88’s around town. Mook, who toured with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra for two years, was a student of local Suzuki method teacher Kay Pitt. When Pitt decided not to take on more new students, Mook became the Suzuki instructor for piano in town. Although it’s unusual, he has dedicated himself as much to jazz as classical music. In fact, Mook has gradually spent more time teaching jazz music to advanced classical players and musicians with a rock background. Local rocker Brian Kingston, whose music has appeared on MTV, and also been written up internationally, has been studying jazz with Mook over the past year.
Like many musicians—jazz players in particular—Mook wanted to find out what the music scene in Paris is like. Ever since Josephine Baker relocated there, France has had a reputation as being very supportive of American jazz artists. “I wanted to go check out the music, not as a tourist,” Mook says.
Mook enrolled in an eight-week French language crash course at UVA, and as soon as it came to an end he booked a flight. Eager to travel cheaply, Mook placed an ad online at Craigslist.com, and was ecstatic when he was offered a room in a house for a very cheap price because the family wants to support artists and musicians. To cap off a good thing, the house had an artist studio with a grand piano that Mook was able to play whenever he wanted.
Mook says that he did not do a ton of research on music sites in Paris, because he “did not want to take any of the adventure out of the trip.” He visited clubs Le Petit Journal, where the cover charge includes both a prix-fixe dinner and music, and the legendary New Morning jazz club. Unfor-tunately, the club was hosting free jazz (which is played with little regard for the rules of time, melody and harmony) that evening, which Mook says is “not his thing.” During the start of his second week, Mook went to a spot in Saint-Germain-de-Prés called Le Bilboquet that is one of the oldest clubs in Paris—everyone from Duke Ellington to Charlie Parker has played there. Mook says it is one of “the most beautiful rooms that you have ever seen.” The pianist of the quartet playing that night asked Mook if he wanted to sit in for a tune. He played one tune to an audience that received him very warmly, and later the owner of the club offered Mook his own slot for a week. Later, Mook was recognized by the bassist and sat in at another club nearby.
Mook has yet to decide when he will return to Europe, but he plans to travel more. When he does, he says, “I can think of no better place to go than Le Bilboquet.” There are pianos in many clubs in Paris, and Mook says, “It is very cool to play for a crowd that is actually listening and shows the ut-most respect for musicians.” Mook says Parisian clubs make it based either on cover or more expensive drinks. At Bilboquet, beers cost 18 Euros —about $23. You can catch Mook during dinner hours every Wednesday with no cover and reasonably priced cocktails at Fellini’s #9.
Marah played at brilliant set at Starr Hill this past weekend. If you want to find the pulse of rock ‘n’ roll, catch them at Bonnaroo, or pick up their latest CD.