while ludovic navarre imagines
his jazzy house project St. Germain to be seriously groundbreaking stuff, being one of the few live acts ever to be upstaged by the warm-up DJ probably isn't something he'll highlight on the resume. The thrillingly diverse set of bangin' afro-house and funky salsa dropped by Movement mixer Jason Palma to thaw the near-frozen crowd turned out to be far more exciting -- and less predictable -- than the set Navarre had programmed for St. Germain.
At stage left, the most active person involved in the production was the bobbing soundman, who excitedly twisted knobs and pressed buttons to trigger the thumpa-thumpa-thumpa beats while finger-cueing the people standing around holding instruments.
Celebrated idea man Navarre, hidden behind his towering stack of monitors set up centrestage, appeared to be doing little more than scowling like a Euro-baddie in a Van Damme action flick.
He could've spent the whole night sipping Baileys on the rocks in the hotel bar, but then again, if he's earning more than his hired musicians it's understandable why he'd want to be there making it look like he's doing something really important.
Every so often he'd pop up with furrowed brow and jerk his head from side to side as if his trained ears had detected an untoward frequency, then vanish for another 20 minutes.
For all the advance hype about jazz -- St. Germain's Tourist album is out on the Blue Note label after all -- there was no real improvisational interaction. The musicians just took turns playing simple phrases repeatedly over a sequenced 4/4 house bounce while the others stood by grinning.
It was soon clear that this instrumental karaoke would continue for as long as it took to recycle the album's nine tracks. As saxophonist Edouard Labor grabbed a flute and held it at arm's length to a microphone while a tooting pre-recorded loop tweeted away, I began scoping out my escape route through the crammed mass. St. GERMAIN at the Guvernment, December 6. Tickets: $25. Attendance: 1,000. Rating: NN