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Retro Paris: The perfect jazz lounge (for the price of a drink)

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Ziggy and Jeff performing at the Hotel du Louvre. (Photo: Hôtel du Louvre)
Ziggy and Jeff performing at the Hotel du Louvre. (Photo: Hôtel du Louvre)

“Mad Men” fanatics, lean in because this tip’s for you. Blame it on Paris‘ falling autumn leaves, but suddenly I’ve got a hankering for some good old-fashioned, toe-tapping, finger snapping, bodice riffing jazz. For the love of swanky-panky, what would Don Draper do?

Putting on my stylish Peggy Olson thinking cap, I reached out to musician friends Jeff Hallam and Siegfried “Ziggy” Mandacé for the low-down on the retro-lounge scene in Paris. So get ready to step out with your baby (and I don’t mean maybe).

Bar Le Defender
Place André Malraux, 1st arrondissement (Metro: Palais Royal / Musée du Louvre)

Rendezvous-worthy, bar Le Defender at the historic Hôtel du Louvre topped their list. “It’s classy. It’s very David Lynchesque,” is how Jeff painted the joint, where he often plays with jazz favorites Tricia Evy and Siegfried Mandacé (the hotel bar bandleader). From floor to ceiling, the bar is decked out in warm tones of mahogany, gold, black marble, and red velvet with a Napoleonic twist.

Don Draper would have felt very much at home here. It’s also a sublime people-watching hotshot spot. Performers from the nearby Comédie Française often pop by for drinks.

Give me one for my baby

Cheapos, here’s the deal. The shows are free with a purchase of a beverage, and let me tell you, they’re wickedly expensive. But holy moly, when are you going to get another chance to kick back with a classic tiny-bubbled cocktail in hand, while listening to the tipsy-curvy jazz in the city of Light? What to do? Nurse your drink and make it last like there’s no tomorrow.

Jeff also performs with “My Friend Jeff.” Photo: Frank Loriou

And Don, yes, top shelf Armagnac from 1963 by Château Laubade is stocked. Non-alcoholic drinks are also available. The Champagne cocktail is “Ziggilicious,” the charismatic bandleader added with a wink.

Let’s do it

Possessing the spirit and style of stars and starlets from days gone by, the trio’s chemistry is flawless, infectious and timeless. From the roaring 1920s to groovy 1960s, Ziggy’s playlist includes everything from Django Reinhardt, Georges Brassens, and Serge Gainsbourg, to Irving Berlin, Miles Davis, and Joao Gilberto!

Feel free to introduce yourself to Jeff and Ziggy. Tell them you’re a Cheapo—once they hear that, they’ll take your requests, avec plaisir! Want catbird seating? Arrive 20 – 30 minutes before the show, suggests Ziggy.

What to wear?

Suggested attire is “dressy,” so I’d recommend taking the fine vintage route. For a full-bodied time-travel experience, call on a few vintage clothing shops in either the Marais or Abbesses. Evening bags, gowns, jackets and ties can be easily scored for under €20 and sometimes €10. Experience? Flyest.

Toast of the town

Max y Jeremy
6 rue Dupuis, 3rd arrondissement (Metro: Republique)

Re-entering the present era, Jeff’s other band, My Friend Jeff, plays in various venues all around Paris. For instance, they’ll be performing at Jeremy y Max Tapas in the bustling, hustling Republique ’hood on November 9, 2011. Admission is free, and there’s no drink requirement.

Jeff’s vibe is a cool, sweet mesh of Chet Baker, Eliot Smith and Elvis Costello. Watch your head, the joint is in the cave (below ground). Wait. Did I just spot Audrey Hepburn?

Clipping from Don Draper, live like there’s no tomorrow, Cheapos, just in case there isn’t one!

About the author

Theadora Brack

About the author: Theadora Brack is a writer working in Paris. Her fiction has appeared in more than 30 literary publications, including 3AM International, The Smoking Poet, Beloit Fiction Journal, Mid-American Review, and the Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal.

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One thought on “Retro Paris: The perfect jazz lounge (for the price of a drink)”

  1. Great info, Theadora. When I am in Paris, I like to stop at the Cafe Petit-Pont and enjoy a glass of wine with the Cathedral of Notre Dame just across the river, bathed in the moonlight. There is usually a piano player or a small jazz ensemble at the cafe too.

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