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Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2002



Henri Salvador

This year's Festival Halou, Tokyo's annual offering of French pops, features Henri Salvador, who, at 85, certainly has some stories to tell. Born in French Guiana in 1917, Salvador moved to Paris as a young man, where he played guitar with Django Reinhardt and developed his own vocal style. In the '50s, he was known primarily as a novelty vocalist (he had a hit with a rock 'n' roll song about dentistry) but quickly earned an international following as a singer of his own ultra-romantic compositions.

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Salvador has been called the Godfather of Chanson, but his music is a lot more upbeat than that of the only other chanson singer close to his age -- the lady-in-black, Juliette Greco. (For the record, Salvador prefers tropical whites and beiges.) At the same time, he's a lot less irreverent than Serge Gainsbourg. Nowadays, Salvador's concerts cover every lounge style imaginable, from Jobim to Sonny Rollins, and as he proves on his new live album, "Performance!" he can still swing with the best of them. During the last 15 years of his career, even Frank Sinatra never sounded this ebullient, on-key and clear-toned. Salvador's energy level is almost shocking for a man his age. Though most French singers keep their voices no more than a hair above a murmur, Salvador likes nothing better than to whoop it up when the occasion demands whooping, which is about half of an average show.

Also on the festival roster is Yann Tiersen, the multi-instrumentalist who struck it rich last year when he was hired to score the movie "Amelie," whose worldwide popularity helped shift several million copies of the soundtrack. Tiersen's quirky songwriting -- two parts Satie to three parts Nino Rota -- has now become more than just an acquired taste.

Rounding out the festival participants is Coralie Clement, a 23-year-old native of Lyon. Clement is the latest in the long, semi-venerable tradition of baby-doll female French vocalists who have inspired more Japanese girl singers than European ones.

Henri Salvador: Sept. 27-28, 7 p.m., and Sept. 29, 3 p.m., at Theatre Coccoon; 5,000 yen and 7,500 yen. Yann Tiersen: Sept. 30, 7 p.m., at Theatre Coccoon, and Oct. 1, 7 p.m., at Shibuya Club Quattro; 6,000 yen. Coralie Clement: Oct. 2, 7 p.m., at Shibuya Club Quattro; 4,500 yen. For more information, call Conversation at (03) 5280-9996.

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