One of the most revered songs by influential French performer and provocateur Serge Gainsbourg is his 1958 hit "Le Poinçonneur des Lilas," about a gloomy ticket-taker in the Paris Metro who keeps in his pocket a magazine article about the energetic glamour of Miami.
It was Gainsbourg — along with Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt, vocalist Edith Piaf and prolific songwriter Georges Brassens — who provided the soundtrack for Vincent Raffard growing up with his parents in France. But while he's now living in Miami, it's the jazzy traditions of music heard for generations on the streets of Paris that give Raffard's band, the French Horn, its captivating energy.
"This music has so much art, so much poetry, so much love and so much good energy," says Raffard, 34, who came to South Florida in 2007 after meeting local musician Brendan O'Hara in Paris. "I like the modern music, but this really touched me. And we make it alive again."
The French Horn will be the featured act as the Rhythm Foundation on Thursday, May 14, unveils a monthly series called Dance Band Nights at the North Beach Bandshell. As the name implies, the aim is to get the audience off its feet and to keep it there. Every performance will begin at 7 p.m. with dance lessons appropriate for the evening's band, which will go on at 8 p.m. Admission is free, with donations to the dance cause accepted.
The quick-paced Dixieland-style music of Brassens has had the most influence on his music, says Raffard, a trumpeter and guitarist, but the French Horn can dial it back if necessary. He doesn't want any broken ankles.
"We're going to adapt ourselves to the people. We cannot play very, very fast, because if we play too fast, people won't be able to dance," Raffard says.
In Thursday's configuration, the French Horn, which also includes members from Florida, Cuba and Italy, will have three guitars, clarinet, violin, bass and a singer, Shira. The set list will include classic swing, traditional French music and original songs (the band is aiming to release a recording in late August or early September).
The Dance Band Night series will continue on the second Thursday of the month at the North Beach Bandshell with other confirmed acts including Conjunto Impacto, a 15-piece salsa orchestra, on June 11 and the folk ensemble Cornbread offering a night of traditional contra dance on July 8 led by caller Anita Mason.
To enjoy the French Horn in other settings, check them out most Wednesday nights at Lagniappe in Wynwood (3425 NE Second Ave., Miami; LagniappeHouse.com Thursdays at the Delano Hotel (1685 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; MorgansHotelGroup.com/Delano) and during Sunday brunch at Buena Vista Bistro (4582 NE Second Ave., Miami; BuenaVistaBistro.com. For more on the band, go to TheFrenchHornCollective.com.
The Dance Band Night series will open 7-10 p.m. Thursday, May 14, at the North Beach Bandshell, 7275 Collins Ave., in Miami Beach. Admission is free. Call 305-672-5202 or go to NorthBeachBandshell.com.