Serge Carnovale: ‘The Paris Cat will set up an Australasian cultural jazz exchange program in Bali’

Elegant, lush and dramatic, Paris Cat is the kind of venue that manages to create a unique ambience, inviting its patrons to immerse themselves in the decadent atmosphere before the artists even appear onstage. Most of the wonderful musicians that regularly appear at the beloved jazz club seem to appreciate the setting, especially the singers, who use the theatrics of the space to the advantage of the story they are telling. The club itself is constantly growing; after opening a second, larger, but equally intimate stage, it is now expanding to Bali, where it aspires to become the meeting point for music-thirsty tourists and the local jazz community. Obviously excited and proud, the club’s owner, Serge Carnovale shares his vision.

serge1 Why did you decide to expand to Bali?

Serge Carnovale: I Love Bali and its beautiful people. The place relaxes me and the local and expat musicians are wonderful. I have been listening to jazz and following Indonesia’s festival circuits for years and i just felt the area needed a cool listening performing arts venue that would support local and touring musicians. The venue is opposite the W Hotel in the vibrant Petitenget area. It will attract a huge tourist trade as well as locals and expats who live in Bali. Jazz is very popular in the Australasian region.

AJN: How does this new club complement the operation of the Melbourne Paris Cat?

SC: It’s great to be the first Australian club with an International brand. We plan to set up a cultural jazz exchange program that will move Australian and Indonesian artists throughout the Australasian region. Musicians will perform, record and participate in workshops and it plans to be a very interesting exciting program.

AJN: How different are the two clubs?

SC: The fit out and style are similar. They both boast a French Industrial post-war vibe, with plenty of paintings and lush velvet curtains. The Bali club has one performance room and holds 140-150 guests, as well as a rooftop garden. It will open five nights per week. I feel it will be popular with tourists, but the unknown is very exciting to me. It’s amazing how much interest people are showing, with some guests planning visits to Bali around our opening in January 2017.

AJN: What kind of acts are you planning on featuring?

SC: We will initially feature local talent and hopefully we can program touring artists in the region as well as Australian acts in the very near future.

AJN: How has your experience with Paris Cat been so far?

SC: We have been in operation for 11 years now. It has been a very challenging and soulfully rewarding experience. My music career was very good for me as i was privileged to play with many wonderful bands and musicians and now at this stage of my life it feels nice to mentor and support established and up and coming artists via the club. We have persisted with our business model and received a warming and supporting response from our guests and musicians. The Paris Cat Jazz club is well established in the Melbourne Jazz scene. In the early years we featured around 150-200 gigs per year. In 2016 we featured just over 500 all because my wife Liz is obsessed with programming bands. We have had some incredible gigs over the years but Robbie Williams and his big band performance was definitely the highlight to this stage.

AJN: What has been the greatest challenge?

SC: Our strongest challenge was developing a roster of artists that you can have a mutual working relationships with, as well as being true to your beliefs and staying clear of people who are quick to bag you.

AJN: November has been ‘Diva month’ at Paris Cat. What is the concept behind it?

SC: Our November Jazz Diva Month is now in its ninth year and an integral part of our programming. It features some of the country’s finest female artists and our guests love it. We have many female jazz vocalists and musicians in Melbourne and I just felt they deserved some recognition. I’m looking forward to Frances Madden’s gig.

AJN: If you could have any musician in the world come and play at the Paris Cat, who would that be?

SC: My ideal line-up would be Herbie Hancock, Steve Gadd, Marcus Miller backing James Morrison and Tommy Emmanuel in our Loft room.

serge1AJN: Who are your heroes?

SC: Oh, I have many – Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, Al Jarreau, Jeff Porcaro, Stevie Wonder, Prince and the list goes on.

AJN: How did you get into jazz?

SC: Being a drummer, I spent a lot of time listening to Tony Williams, Dave Weckl, Vinnie Colaiuta and Steve Gadd. These guys were always at the cutting edge of their styles, which exposed me to some wonderful music and recordings that are legendary in jazz, fusion and funk music today.

AJN: Which song best describes your current state of mind?

SC: Thelonious Monk’s ‘Round Midnight’; he wrote this tune in the back of a cab. I’ve been catching a lot of Uber lately.