The story behind Jazz for Dogs

In a murmur, that elegant timbre, veiled in mystery, unmistakable, whispers into the listener's ear some of the intimate secrets of a dog's life: there is talk of Bach and dried sausage, tango, and tell-tale trickles left on a balcony. Like some victim of a mind-expanding substance, you have to pinch yourself to ensure that this is no dream: can it really be Fanny Ardant? In a handful of seconds, the eternal Woman Next Door causes her image to implode, sending us straight into a parallel world, the twilight zone that is Jazz for Dogs.

The tour-operators here are familiar figures, both with established reputations: Jean-Michel Bernard, the new-world composer, arranger and pianist, and his delicate spouse Kimiko, the Japanese-American lyricist, singer and artist/potter. Besides forming a real-life couple they are also married as writers, wedded and welded together by numerous fertile collaborations including, notably, the film The Science of Sleep directed by Michel Gondry, the poet who tinkers with dreams. Curiously, the genesis of the pair's Jazz for Dogs dates back to a film made by Thomas Gilou, Michou d'Auber, for which Jean-Michel fabricated several demos.

"In the end", he explains, "they weren't used, and they fell asleep inside a Clavinova. One day, taking advantage of my absence, Kimiko put her hands into the machine without telling me. And, like the fairies in Sleeping Beauty, she woke up those literally slumbering melodies."

Kimiko interrupts with a smile: "It was more like they jumped into my memory... It just so happens that I'm absolutely mad about animals, particularly dogs and cows. I was listening to a tune by Jean-Michel, and the words appeared immediately, it was like automatic writing: « Birdie num num », a portrait of our dog who'd just broken a leg. And then a second text came to me, and then another, and a fourth... This wasn't my vision of the animal; it was the animal's vision... it was the world seen through his eyes. I sent an email to a friend, the American rapper MC Paul Barman, and at the end I mentioned we'd lost our puppy Alfred from jaw-cancer: 'Losing a puppy is like losing an arm.' Inside an hour he sent me back a poem he'd written in a spontaneous reaction to that phrase of mine. So I ran over to the magic Clavinova where I came up with a melody which, metrically, fitted Paul's words perfectly. It had been lying there in ambush, just biding its time."

In the course of 2009, those first songs were turned into rudimentary demos which Jean-Michel Bernard then recorded at his studio in Verrières-le-Buisson. Due to lack of time, and impetus, and a record company, the project diluted itself; it wasn't abandoned, just put back to a hypothetical "later".

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Words: Stéphane Lerouge
Translation: Martin Davies