Cabaret, Brass and Blues: Back in Time with Tito Escribar

From a corner trimmed in crushed red velvet, Tito Escribar, in a pin-striped suit and well-polished shoes, crossed the stage and began singing the 1940s French standard “Un bois de mon coeur” (Forest of my heart).

itemId=14177 Photo by Kendal Montgomery

The newly opened Bistrot Jazz Club of Bellavista seemed to slip back into a time of grandparents, when armchair-sized radios were wooden, ornate and prominent living room fixtures.

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As a part of this year’s French Week, Escribar presented his cabaret-style show, "Zelig a la French" (a reference to the Woody Allen's 1983 flick), on October 20. The set list included French standards from post-WWII jazz singers such as Montand, Gainsbourg, Gréco and Aznavour.

Escribar, formerly of the duo Saravá, played with a jazz trio Tuesday night, featuring Jaime “Six-Toe” Medel on electric guitar and Marcelo Rossel on upright acoustic bass.

Despite the club’s cheesy disco lights that continued throughout the entire first set, the music still easily rose above the ‘70s strobe effect. Listening to Escribar sing is like hearing the somehow familiar songs you’ve never heard, ones that carry the mysterious feel of a smoky café with a secret door knock. The audience is drawn into the intimate setting by the first song and begins to sing along.

A true entertainer, he plays the crowd, splitting them up and having them sing different, semi-complicated choral parts as background singers. “Come on. What happened here.” Escribar teases one section that forgot their part. “I’m up here for you. Ok now, wake up.” The crowd chuckles sheepishly and then gets it right the second time.

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The room comes alive with self-invented chatter mimicking a metro platform, as he warms the microphone for the plucky Gainesbourg’s song “Le poinçonneur des Lilas" (The ticket taker at Metro Lilas) that follows.

With the bold, brassy notes of the bluesy Nougaro tune “Armstrong,” Escribar mimics the throaty Louie Armstrong style, then stops to play mouth trumpet and saxophone, a technique in which he uses a combination of vocal chords and vibrating lips to copy the sounds of different musical instruments.

In the middle of one song, he sneaks offstage and sits in a chair beside it watching Medel and Rossel jam. Complex electric guitar rifts weave in and out of the oaky thumping of an acoustic bass almost bigger than the man playing it.

Tito Escribar - "Zelig a la French"
October 20, 2009
Bistrot Jazz Club of Bellavista
Constitucion 30, Patio Bellavista.
Santiago, Chile, Bellavista

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