Six albums and two decades spent crisscrossing the globe, playing to enthusiastic audiences from Sydney to San Francisco and Berlin to Beijing, have enabled France’s Paris Combo to create a unique, cosmopolitan sound, establishing the band as one of the most piquant, intriguing groups on the international music scene. Fronted by the charismatic vocals of chanteuse Belle du Berry, the combo has struck a chord with critics and audiences alike with their fun-loving mix of swinging gypsy jazz, cabaret, French pop, and Latino and Middle Eastern rhythms.
The mainstream success of its second album, Living Room, gave the group a unique status as a French indie band capable of drawing crowds not only in France, where the album went gold, but also in Australia and the United States, where the band has chalked up over twenty tours. Returning to performing in 2011 after a five-year hiatus, the ensemble made its US comeback at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles and went on to release its fifth album, simply entitled 5. Media response was enthusiastic and, in 2013–2014, they sold out venues across the country with their first US tours in a decade and a triumphant return to Australia in 2015. Paris Combo’s next album, Tako Tsubo, was released in the United States this past February.
Belle du Berry, guitarist Potzi, and drummer François first performed together in Paris as members of a quirky retro revue, Les Champêtres de Joie, which went on to collaborate at the closing ceremony of the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France. Du Berry and Australian-born trumpeter-pianist David Lewis met while performing together at the Cabaret Sauvage, and in 1995 the group began to hone its sound, playing in cafés and barges along the Seine River under the name Paris Combo.
Du Berry, whose musical roots go back to post-punk bands, cites influences such as Arletty, the French singer-actress of the 1930s, but also the Surrealists and a panoply of more recent artists including the B-52s. Potzi’s Django-influenced guitar often mixes with François’s ska or Latin grooves to create a fascinating blend. Lewis, who had previously played with a wide variety of French musicians including Manu Dibango and Arthur H, attributes the group’s approach to the French capital’s cosmopolitan atmosphere.
Paris Combo’s eponymous 1997 debut disc was released as the swing revival was in full bloom, yet the band’s wide-ranging mix of musical influences instantly set them apart from other groups in the genre, winning critical praise and appealing to international audiences.
The marvelously eclectic Paris Combo . . . romped through jazz-tinged selections energized by the quirky vocals of Belle du Berry and Gypsy rhythms of Django Reinhardt-influenced guitarist Potzi.
—Los Angeles Times
Over the course of five albums, the Paris Combo has fired the imagination of anyone who likes their music cool, continental, witty and more than a little mysterious.