Coartjazz 2021 captures both the bonheur and the power of music – encore!

Posted by Dick Playfair on Aug 28, 2021

I’ve just enjoyed a glorious week in the beautiful village of Coaraze in the French Alpes Maritimes at CoartJazz 2021.  For its participants these few days offer pure escapism – being entirely immersed in jazz, in camaraderie, in fun (and, for me, French) and bonheur. More of that later.

And afterwards inevitably, that crash back into reality – but also the realization of how lucky we are.

We are often told that the second time will never be as good as the first. In fact, you risk major disappointment by revisiting the same place again for more and it might not quite live up to expectations. Different encounters; the food isn’t as good; the ambience has changed, or whatever.

Stéphane Guillaume, sax, and Yilian Cañizares, vocal and violin

But that wasn’t the case at Coaraze in August. In 2019 the experience had been awesome (hate the word, but it really was). Then it took my breath away. But this time it left me overwhelmed – mentally a little bit from all that simultaneous translation, physically from the daily ascents to the salle d’église for masterclasses with Stéphane Guillaume the sax/brass master (and not forgetting Lo Castel, for lunch) and emotionally, because that’s what this environment and this level of intensity just does to you.

This year it seemed there also was an outpouring of joy. Maybe that was a ‘Covid unchained’ thing.  Sixty musicians and singers learning from and interacting with each other – not just words and skills, but expression, kindness, humanity too. This was the first time I had physically played the music I love with anyone else in over a year!

The world has Covid. Deal with it as you will, whether through vaccination, or caution and respect, but we have to defeat it or learn to live with it. And then the dreadful tragedy that is playing out in Afghanistan was happening as we were playing Joy Spring and On The Sunny Side Of The Street in our little bubble in Coaraze. I don’t think that was lost on anyone.

But music is a powerful weapon too.

Music is a powerful weapon. No more so than in the hands of Jérôme Regard, bass and Thierry Arpino, drums

So, for me, the closing concert of the week was a statement of the force of music. Its ability to stir spirits, to cement friendships, and beliefs and energy, and to celebrate harmony. Against a backdrop of pandemic and more crisis in the middle east there was a real sense that music can move mountains, capture emotions, and unite hearts and minds.

The talent on the stage was incredible, again, in line with the stellar reputation over the years of CoartJazz to attract the best. Yilian Cañizares, vocal and violin; Stéphane Guillaume, sax; David Brkljacic, sax; Jean Christophe Maillard, guitar; Grégory Privat, piano; Jérôme Regard, bass, and Thierry Arpino, drums, joined for the closing evening by Ivan Bridon, percussion; and Christophe Dal Sasso, flute.

Grégory Privat, piano

The final concert was unforgettable. Sublime.  The very best jazz in the fantastic surroundings of an olive grove at night with the village perché of Coaraze as backdrop. But the encore, Gregory Privat’s fantastic, uplifting Le Bonheur, captured the moment for everyone in that all too brief musical vortex.

I wrote down a string of words as the song played out. I scribbled: beautiful, joyous, soulful, heart-rending, poignant.

Yilian Cañizares, vocal and violin; Grégory Privat, piano; Ivan Bridon, percussion: and Jean Christophe Maillard, vocals and guitar

After the final applause, there was more magic to come.  The ’stagiares’, the students, quietly at first, started to sing and to clap the bridge of Grégory’s song in appreciation and respect of the ‘intervenants’ who had just left the stage; who had lifted everyone’s spirits with all the passion they could generate.  You couldn’t help but feel something really special. It made the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.  Just how much empathy can be mustered by singing with one voice and clapping one rhythm, with not even a lit briquet in sight? It was really powerful.  And then Yilian with her returning colleagues encouraged the rest of the audience to their feet to join in too.

Jean Christophe Maillard reckons it’s OK, with Jérôme Regard

I wanted to write a blog that was of full of laughs. Instead I have written of something that has left me happy but in awe (I hate that word) of just what a force music can be.

 “Jouer Parker” had raised a smile earlier in the week – not Charlie Parker, but “par coeur”. By heart is good, but from the heart is even better.

The success of Coartjazz, is rooted in its brilliant teachers, its joyful and uplifting concerts ( I haven’t even mentioned the Laurent Coulondre trio who had been exceptional on the same stage earlier in the week), and in the ability, in a moment, to capture that raw emotion of music, of jazz, in surroundings that cannot be bettered in my opinion. Anywhere. Ever.

Christophe Dal Sasso, Stéphane Guillaume, J C Maillard, Yilian Cañizares, David Brkljacic and Ivan Bridon

For more information about CoartJazz see

I stayed for the week chez Nicolas and Noémie around 3 kms from the village at the Domaine de la Feuilleraie Chambres d’Hôtes. Super comfortable rooms, balconies with fabulous views of Coaraze, a swimming pool (extremely welcome for those few spare moments in the August heat), and superb breakfasts. Car recommended.

All photos © Dick Playfair/