On the Deux Magots terrace, it is not uncommon to see a musician tapping his foot to some inner beat, though he might be composing a future jazz standard dedicated to his favorite café. As a reminder, a jazz piece is structured around a harmonic grid, a musical canvas.


To illustrate, let’s take Saint-Germain-des-Prés and its urban geography with a provincial feel. The high point of the harmonic grid is the church bearing the name of its district. The jazz composer looks up at the bells as they ring out their little midday tune. He dives back into his harmonic grid.

L'exposition des Deux Magots pour fêter ses 140 ans
L'exposition des Deux Magots pour fêter ses 140 ans


It is made up of chords : the cafés, with Les Deux Magots prominently featured. They allow for improvisation, telling the story of the artists who are the very history of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Staccato, slurred, accented, blue notes weaving into more or less tonic phrases : the works of the great musicians who have passed through Les Deux Magots.


In this joyful melody, this legendary café has always struck the right chord, the bass line upon which unprecedented jams have been constructed. One example: Thanks to Jean-Paul Sartre, Juliette Gréco sang the words of Raymond Queneau. The spirit that inhabits Les Deux Magots had nothing to do with it. In the staccato notes, there is Boris Vian, his trumpet and verve, of course. Miles Davis.


And, a little later, Paul McCartney and John Lennon sharing a coffee because they were flat broke–they had not yet become the Beatles. Jim Morrison haunted the premises, just as the Sex Pistols and Pink Floyd enjoyed their wild times grouped on the terrace across from the church. God Save the Queen.


Today, the chorus has taken on new, more contemporary accents. You can hear Thomas Dutronc’s manouche music, Olivia Ruiz’s nouvellechanson lyrics, Cerrone’s thumping rhythms, Cali’s folky-rock compositions, above and beyond the Thursday-night tributes from October to May to the jazz that made the café what it is today. The set is far from over.


Photos credits : © Cohérie Boris Vian ; © Collection privée Les Deux Magots ; © Say Who / Ayka Lux

L'exposition des Deux Magots pour fêter ses 140 ans

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