By Holli Harms

For a perfect Sunday evening in Paris, head to the 18th arrondissement, specifically 9 rue du Baigneur, 75018, just a hop away from Montmartre on a residential block. What you’ll discover for yourself here is the wonderful BAB ILO bar and its downstairs jazz session.

We had just arrived in Paris to visit our friend, Tony, an expat living in the City of Lights, and he suggested we get things started by visiting a warm and comfortable space for some cocktails and music. It was the quintessential way to start our journey outside the typical tourist spots.

There’s something about Paris and the people who live there that exudes a sense with everyone you pass that they are being the exact person they want to be. Paris has that ability to lift you up from your day to day difficulties and make you understand you are enough. BAB ILO and its unassuming space that brings together amazing musicians is the heart of that Parisian attitude, of being enough in the moment.

The upstairs of the bar is wrapped in beautiful wood in a quaint and rustic setting suggesting comradery and conversation. It is the perfect spot for a cocktail with friends, or by yourself with a book to read, or possibly one you are writing. The bartender, Ekin, is affable and quick to laugh. You are in good hands. There is also seating outside where you can enjoy the off-the-beaten-path neighborhood street scene if you wish.

Downstairs though is where the magic happens. The lower space is intimate and cozy. The stage, barely large enough for piano, drums, and percussion setup, so the guitarist and amp had to be off to the side. The space holds about twenty in chairs and could get crowded with standing room on a good night. You are so close that the front row’s feet touch the small, barely a step up, stage. It’s not sitting in with the session, but it’s close, allowing you to truly be a part of the music, to feel it in every fiber of your being, and to experience the back and forth conversations that are jazz.

With Manuel Anoyvega Mora

The night I was there the air was filled with the mingling and motion of six maestros. Six unassuming quiet men playing music together that not only expanded the space but all of us as well. Half way into their session the pianist the marvelous Xavier Felgeyrolles, went to the back of the room behind the small downstairs bar to take over the sound and lights, and in his place arrived none other than renowned pianist and artist Manuel Anoyvega Mora. Mora’s hands on the keys created flickering flames that flared into fire as they moved at inhuman speed across the keyboard. For three non-stop hours the band was building together with their music and then tearing it down in order to rebuild again. Had there been space I would have been on my feet dancing, moving with no inhibition.

BAB ILO (only open Thursday thru Sunday) is a fabulously intimate find in a city that beckons at every corner. Settle in with a drink and some stunning music brought to you by some of Paris’ and the world’s most talented musicians.

Brazilian music: jazz, bossa nova with:
Sorriso – saxophone
Thierry Chillon – saxophone, flute
Charles Amed Barry – bass
Manu Perry – Percussions
Xavier Felgeyrolles/ Manuel Anoyvega – piano
Jean-Michel Franciette – drums.

BAB ILO 18th arrondissement, 9 rue du Baigneur, 75018,