A highlight of my trip to France and Belgium this summer was meeting friends, many who I have not seen for more than 30 years.
Just after my performance in Toucy at the Ricky Ford Festival, a very attractive woman came up to me with a package. I thought that I recognized her, but often when having finished a performance I’m in a dream world. This was Eila Conte. I had met Eila in the mid-Sixties when she was living in Paris with her husband, Gerard. Gerard loved music of New Orleans and felt that Benny Goodman was outrageously modern. Eila was a translator from Helsinki and was so delightful.
Another friend was Karin Lecacheux. Karin took a photograph of me, which was displayed on the back of my third LP The Blue Potato. She was originally from Berlin and married a Bard College classmate of mine named Henri de Seynes. This family used to live in Montparnasse. I had not seen Karin since 1967.
Meeting a third friend was even more remarkable. I’m speaking of Christian Abry. We met on the Riviera where I was performing with Jeanne Lee. We had left our luggage on the wrong train and Christian says he saw me crawl under a train to retrieve it. This was either 1963 or 64. He was around 18 and I was 10 years older. I had written him a letter to thank him for his kindness, which had been put in a box at his late mother’s house and never read for more than 40 years. He found the letter sometime this past winter and wrote me. We had a mutual acquaintance, a Dr. Jouvet, who ran a sleep clinic in Lyons. To this day I can see so many young cats who were unable to sleep after a week of testing …
In Bruxelles, Aaron and I were hosted by Rose Kervyn de Meerendre. Rose is the daughter of the Countess Florence de Lannoy. Florence and her husband Leopold have been very important friends of mine since 1963 and during soirees that they hosted, Jeanne and I met many entrepreneurs, which helped establish our careers.
Each evening at the Lannoy house had a unique perspective — a specific evening was a sort of a musical vernissage, which also might feature poetry and discussions on painting. In the Seventies, Florence opened a six-floor establishment called Jacques le Fataliste. The name of this club was inspired by Denis Diderot.