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Members include Belle du Berry (born in 1966, in Bourges, France), lead vocals, accordion; François Jeannin, drums; David Lewis (joined group, 1996), trumpet, piano; Potzi, guitar; Mano Razanajato (joined group, 1996), bass, vocals. Addresses: Record company--Universal, c/o Polydor, 20/22 rue des fossés saint Jacques, 75005, Paris, France. Website--Paris Combo Official Website: http://pariscombo.artistes.universalmusic.fr/.

The jazz-influenced Paris Combo first formed in 1995 and has gained popularity in Europe, Australia, Asia, and the United States, with a succession of increasingly well-received CD releases. The French-based acoustic combo has struck a positive chord with critics and audiences for their fun-loving mix of jazz, French pop, cabaret, gypsy, Latino, and Middle Eastern rhythms. Fronted by the smoky vocals of chanteuse Belle du Berry, the group also includes Australian David Lewis on piano and trumpet, Algerian-French guitarist Potzi, Madagascan bassist Mano Razanajato, and French drummer François Jeannin.

In the 1980s du Berry was involved in the punk music and alternative rock scenes in France, and sang in several bands, including Les Pervers Polymorphes Inorganisés, Les Endimanchés, and Les Champêtres de Joie. She also sang with guitarist Potzi and drummer Jeannin in an act called Cabaret Sauvage, which combined visual theater with traditional French chanson, or music-hall songs, from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. In the early 1990s du Berry shifted her focus from music to theatrical productions, and collaborated with French choreographer Philippe Decouflé. Together du Berry and Decouflé created the ballet that was performed at the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, in 1992. Du Berry's focus, however, returned to music, and she hooked up once again with Potzi and Jeannin to form the trio Paris Combo in 1995. At that point, the group mainly played covers of traditional French chansons and a few original songs by du Berry and Potzi. By the next year, Paris Combo had added Lewis and Razanajato to the lineup, and the quintet played mainly original tunes.

Each member of Paris Combo has brought a distinct influence to the group that has helped shape its unique sound. Du Berry's singing has been described as infectious and mischievous, and the group's sound is anchored by her sexy vocals, but more importantly by her modern lyrics infused with a playful irony. Potzi, whose parents are Algerian, has been described by his bandmates as a "Django Rheinhardt freak." Potzi's guitar echoes the gypsy jazz sound of Rheinhardt, one of Europe's most influential jazz legends, while also adding Latin and Middle Eastern rhythms. Lewis, who first came to France as a student at the Paris Conservatoire in 1982, played trumpet with West African musicians Manu Dibango and Arthur H before joining Paris Combo. With his muted trumpet and piano, he has contributed a jazzy swing sound to the group. Madagascar-born Razanajato plays the double bass and sings vocals and scats, contributing to the group's Latin feel. Drummer Jeannin infuses swing into his percussions, and has also added New Orleans funk and electronica beats to the group's mix. At its core, Paris Combo is rooted in jazz, and the two commonalities the group members share is their love for jazz and their Paris base. Lewis has attributed the group's idiosyncratic sound to its geographical origin, explaining that "there are so many influences that criss-cross each other in a city like Paris."

Collectively the band represents an ensemble piece in which the whole is the sum of its parts. However, many critics and listeners have been drawn to Paris Combo by the alluring voice of du Berry. American critics in particular have been quick to make comparisons to legendary French chanteuse Edith Piaf and cabaret star Marlene Dietrich. In an interview in Atomic with Seth Edlavitch, du Berry insisted, "I am very flattered when I hear people comparing me to Edith Piaf and Marlene Dietrich, but I don't think that it's a fair comparison. No one in France compares me to them." Lewis concurred in the interview, noting, "If you were really to ask Belle who are her musical influences, I think she would say Arletty, the French actress (from the 1930s), or the singer of the '30s, Marie Dubas." Regardless of comparisons, du Berry's vocals, which are sung entirely in French and receive no translation in the liner notes, have garnered an international audience. In an interview with Oscar Hapas for Radio France Internationale du Berry related, "I'd say I try and write songs that can be understood on several different levels at the same time. ... I prefer to leave listeners free to dig around and come up with any meaning they choose. And if they don't want to do that, well, then they can just sit back and enjoy the melody, the rhythm or the superficial touch of humour I like to bring to the lyrics." She continued, "I love the idea of spontaneous writing, you know, the sort of 'automatic' texts Dadaists and Surrealists ... experimented with in the '20s. I like the idea of coming up with stuff like that---because on the one hand that kind of writing sounds a bit wild and crazy, but on the other it's absolutely fundamental."

The group toured France and Europe extensively, honing their distinctive upbeat sound and gaining a large critical and popular following, before releasing their debut CD Paris Combo. The CD, released in France in 1997 and in the United States in 1998, recreated the jovial energy of their live performances in a studio recording. The single "Moi, mon

by Elizabeth Henry

Paris Combo's Career

Group originally formed as a trio in Paris, France, 1995; expanded to quintet, 1996; group built its reputation as a live act, touring France and Europe, 1997; released debut album, Paris Combo, on Pias label, 1997; signed with American label Tinder Records and released Paris Combo, 1998; released Living Room in Europe, 1999 and in the U.S., 2000; signed with Polydor, a European subsidiary of Universal, and released Attraction, 2001; released Live, 2002; album Motifs released in Europe, 2004 and U.S., 2005.

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