Vincent Raffard is a fish out of water. The Parisian jazz vocalist, guitarist and trumpet player is a welcomed anomaly in Miami’s sea of musical variations from Latin influences, to Dub Step, to Hip Hop to Reggae to Rock. There is nothing and no one else like him in our tropical paradise. Catching his band’s performance at The Van Dyke Sunday night was like being transported to a tiny Parisian cafe. With the intimate setting of small cafe tables and the band hemmed in by the red velvet curtains and a baby grand, Raffard’s electric incarnation of The French Horn quickly penetrated the patron filled room, table by table, surprising them with their collective talent and charming them with his smooth French vocals. The evening bounced and flowed from extended contemporary instrumentals, to Raffard’s communion with his horn, often employing his mute, softening his sound, complimenting his quiet, french vocals. “The music I play is traditional ‘Chanson Francaise’, like American folk, with songs from Edith Piaf, Gorges Brassens, Serge Gainsbourg, Djengo Reinhardt, who were more from the 40’s to the 60’s with some originals mixed in,” explains Raffard in his heavy French accent. Charming is the only way to describe front man Raffard, with his boyish good looks, and affable, self deprecating stage presence.
For performances purposes, there are two incarnations of his band, one being an electric ensemble, the other acoustic, with Raffard as the common denominator. Both band versions have enormous individual talent. Each incarnate’s performance is unlike the other with the exception of Raffard’s consistent unique style. The Acoustic French Horn is very traditional old school French and an emphasis on vocals, with clarinet, Flexter Flo Henderson, trumpet, Raffard, accordion, Sebatien Tigoulet, and upright bass, Loisel Son Machin. “We play with the color of old New Orleans style and French Parisian traditional music, “ explains Raffard. The Electric French Horn is more of a collective of musicians, “We play more of a standard and groove with a French touch, drums, Shay Eischen, electric bass, Rodrigo Zambrano, and electric guitar, Eric Escanes, as part of the sound… very dynamic.”
Raffard picked up a guitar at the tender age of twelve, then as fate would influence his future as much as the blues and bossa nova he was listening to, a bicycle accident sidelined him from the typical childhood activities giving him plenty of time to take up with his passion for music. At 14, he had his first band, as lead guitarist.
Realizing that traditional studies wasn’t his thing, he enrolled in a music academy at 16 where he began intensively training jazz guitar. At the age of 18, he had a dream that he was playing the trumpet and that is was easy and that Miles Davis was his “spiritual father”, so he rented a cornet, and a few weeks later he was playing with friends. His introduction with the trumpet was an easy transition, which transcended into studying it intensely in a jazz music conservatory. In 2001, he met a teacher who taught him how to “blow the right way, yogi style, a spiritual approach.” For the next six years he continued to work and play in various projects, and in 2007, began to write and compose. While playing in a club in Paris, Miami musician, Brendan O’Hara invited him to join him in the States for a 30 day tour, ending in Miami. Opportunities in his professional and personal life kept him in Miami. His longing for France inspired him to write and start his Miami-based band, The French Horn.
Raffard is currently in the studio with his Electric French Horn incarnate, working on a blend of French traditional and original music and hopes to release his CD in January 2013, depending on funding donations he can raise.
When asked where he saw himself by this time next year, Raffard responded,”I’d love to be touring various European city festivals. I’d also like to have a nice Miami following by then as well. A nice audience can really respect the silence of music and hopefully appreciate what we have to give.”
Lucky for us The French Horn is still in Miami. November 8th, they will be performing at a new venue, Lagniappe, 3425 N.E. 2nd Avenue in Midtown, as well a standing Thursday French Night. They also play at The Van Dyke about every other month.