The Live In Paris Story
The idea to record Jill Scott in Paris was one of those almost impossible ideas to pull off with the limited time available when the thought first came up. Jill was already on tour in Europe nearing the end of the run. In fact, the first serious conversation about recording a show took place the Wednesday before Thanksgiving about recording the two shows in Paris the upcoming weekend. Initially the idea was to make an audio-only recording of Jill’s flaming-hot band and European run in support of her second studio album “Beautifully Human.” On Thanksgiving Day, Thianar Gomis, the eventual producer of the project, had the even crazier idea with the short timeframe to pull it off, of trying to shoot video of the performance in addition to capturing a pristine audio recording. Low and behold, two and a half days after it was all brought up, we were all in a chilly PARIS with equipment at the ready.
With the camera crew fairly well hidden in head to toe black, and clearly instructed by Jill not to be seen nor heard from, the cameras were carefully tucked away; not to intrude in any way on the intimate exchange between audience and artist. We recorded 2 shows back to back at the historic Elysee Montmartre, a grand old venue which contained the standing room only, sold-out crowd. The first night Jill delivered her usual classic and special performance. Head and shoulders above most in her generation, Jill left this Parisian crowd speechless as she burned up the stage with her intelligence, uncanny vocal ability, and passion. After the first night, no one was mad about the decision to record and it was clear that we had something special in the can - then came night two.
Everyone on tour with Jill had grown accustomed to her brilliance night after night, but knew almost from the beginning that a different current of electricity in Paris was shooting through to everyone in the building. Some of her crew, who had at this point seen her do just about everything, were standing in the wings speechless like star-struck fans. Moments in the building, seemed to those there, moved as in slow motion as everyone concentrated hard to preserve every moment of the experience. On the second night during Jill’s classic “I Need You,” the massive 19th century hall was so quiet it seemed that everyone in attendance was collectively holding their breath, not to disturb the air as she reached her climax. The extraordinary rendition of “Golden” embodied here which followed it. Take a look for yourself at what happened during the solo. Jill’s extraordinary band - Fat Back Taffy - walked off the stage sharing stories of the outer body experiences they all seemed to have had while playing this remarkable set. Fresh from a fun leisurely shopping day, walking and taking in the magic of Paris, Jill herself was in an exuberant space but still asked her familiar “Really?!?” after witness after witness reported to her what they had just seen.
With the whirlwind of the Christmas holiday season that followed the tour, as well as several technical questions that arose, this special recording was initially overlooked with other urgent priorities looming. Not one to simply accept the initial technical questions as fatalities, Thianar teamed up with engineering and mixing savant Thierry Migeotte in a painstaking process that consumed almost the better part of a year. Thianar and Thierry worked on the audio portion of the recording daily, for over 7 months. Never adding a note or altering the reality captured by the machines, these two huddled in the studio with a commitment almost unseen in today’s music business. At the same time J.G. Biggs, the director, spent time with the “hidden camera” footage and came up with the mondrian effect on telling the story visually. When Thierry and Thianar finally emerged from the studio, they presented an absolute audio masterpiece that created a buzz in the studio engineering Los Angeles community.
Person after person was ushered down to listen to Jill’s work of art performance presented and preserved like a work of art. Those who got a chance at this sneak peak, never experiencing Jill live, found often themselves with the same goose bumps the original audience had and in certain occasions their eye ducts filled with tears like those who were moved in person. When Jill herself came into the studio almost a year after this process began to hear what the mad-scientists had resurrected, she sat there in stunned disbelief. She had previously often remarked how she had wished she could have the experience of seeing herself live in person from the audience’s perspective. The clarity, passion and singing through the speakers in the small darkened studio on a bright spring afternoon were probably as close as she’ll ever get. Quite speechless, Jill’s dumbfounded look was very similar to those watching her when the recordings were made. She listened closely for self-perceived mistakes that she thought she remembered on stage but couldn’t find them; they never existed. Sitting in the reclining studio chair, dead-center between 2 powerful monitors, she could listen to every nuance of her remarkable band and concentrate on them without the thought of pleasing an audience. When her attention went to the high-art musicality of the artists on stage with her, her eyes often exploded from a tightly clenched closed eyelid to the wide-eyed expression of a child believing they had just seem a ghost. In fact, Jill walked out of the studio mumbling the same chant over and over, “I thought this was dead?”
Later, one by one, several members of Jill’s band came in to hear the tracks. Most didn’t remember everything they played and a couple of them remarked that they heard things they didn’t know they were capable of playing. Pete Kuzma, the band’s music director and only keyboard player in the group even asked “was there another keyboard part added to the recording?” When he examined the individual tracks for himself he could hardly believe it was him communicating such polar opposite thoughts at the same time that it seemed like two people. His chant was “Oh my God this is so special, we’ve got to put it out!” Fast forward now 2 years and the timing is finally available to share this exceptional recording with those who should appreciate it most - Jill’s fans.
Fresh off of the release of her critically claimed, third studio album, “The Real Thing”, this disc goes into production just after her 3 Grammy nominations have been announced. This recording underscores why she’s so special and deserving of such critical acclaim and gives evidence to the fact that she should soon be receiving much more. We hope you enjoy this wonderful disc, the first DVD form Hidden Beach and the first in a series of “Hidden Beach Basement Tapes” of previously unreleased recordings which deserve to be devoured by the public.