For a long time, they were New Orleans' only "Musical Ambassadors," though some other jazz greats have since joined their ranks.
So Tangier was honored to have Lillian Boutté & The Gigolos for the latest edition of Tanjazz, an annual festival that attracts a wide audience of Tanjawis and visitors from Europe, largely nearby Spain.
Lillian Boutté, despite her "ambassadorial" title, is anything but pin-striped. A little dynamo of a woman, she can really belt out the classics and get the crowd moving. Great fun, and a credit to her home town.
Too bad one of the local francophone/arabophone weeklies chose to trash the festival's organizer, with some xenophobic drivel about the festival being "imposed" on Tangier, saying that despite municipal subsidies, it failed to draw tourists to the city.
As I say, drivel: the place was packed with people, and the Europeans weren't all local residents. On top of that, the poison pen journalist asked why Tangier should host a jazz festival, dedicated to a foreign music form: "since when has New York organized a gnaoua music festival?"
Well, precisely since May 21, 2011, with the Moroccan "Master Gnaoua Musicians" at the Florence Gould Hall. But then, that's what cultural diplomacy is about. And the New York gnaoua concert was sponsored by the French Institute.
Lillian Boutté and Philippe Lorin, the French founder of Tanjazz, are obviously above cultural chauvinism, and Tangier is the better for it. Yes, Tanjazz may attract an elite crowd who can pay rather stiff (for Morocco) ticket prices. But to the credit of the organizers, several free street concerts provide a taste of jazz to everyone passing by.
Maybe, for next year's Tanjazz, we can have a free jazz concert on our patio for everyone passing through the Legation's medina street. Maybe a crooner, to bring back a flavor of Tangier, International Zone…