At a Glance
Ritchie & Phil, jazz duo plays jazz, rhythm and blues, and dance Friday October 16 at The FCC Rooftop, 8 p.m.
Cambodia can prove to be desolate territory for a DJ.
Richard Boisson and Philippe Javelle, the impressive jazz duo from Paris, will most certainly dazzle the expat circuit during their six-month stay in Cambodia.
The pair wowed crowds at La Residence and The Chinese House on two tours earlier this year with a masterfully polished blend of “crooner” jazz and American rhythm and blues.
“I stayed 12 days and made 11 concerts,” Javelle says of his first trip in January. “It was hardly a holiday.”
Audiences absolutely loved “Ritchie and Phil,” who play The FCC Rooftop on Oct. 16.
“As soon as we came, the people wanted to listen us,” recalls Javelle. “And after, it was ‘I have a restaurant here. Can you play?’, and ‘I have a restaurant there. Can you play?’”
The duo returned in April and stayed two months.
“It was the same,” Javelle says. “Everyone wanted us, and it was really fun, and very pleasant to us, to know that all these people wanted us to play in their places.”
Both are professional musicians with an impressive pedigree. Javelle, for instance, is a graduate of the Music Academy of Paris. And the pair wound up jamming with Prince Sirivudh, an accomplished jazz musician and big band conductor.
The pair knows 4,000 songs – including numerous Christmas carols – in five languages.
As a live act, Boisson plays the drums, Javelle plays the keyboard, and both of them sing. But both also play a number of other instruments well.
When they’re in their acoustic mode, Boisson plays the guitar and Javelle the accordion, which with the bumpy roads and little motos in rural Cambodia, makes for a perfect traveling band.
In a typical three-set performance, they open with crooner jazz, follow with rhythm and blues and finish with up-tempo dance music.
In Paris, Boisson sings for his own 20-piece Frank Sinatra tribute orchestra. And as a pair they do stuff from Nat King Cole, Tony Bennet, Harry Connick Jr. and other big-band swingers.
Their rhythm and blues set includes material from artists such as Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, Wilson Pickett, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. They also cover pop artists such as Prince, U2 and Peter Gabriel.
“That is the power of the duet,” says Javelle. “He takes care of the rhythm, and I take care of the harmonies. With that we can go anywhere.”
They have just recorded their first album, titled Wish You Love, which includes 11 vocal covers and one instrumental written by Ritchie. Copies of the album are available locally.
Ritchie first came to Cambodia in 2004 to visit a friend. On that initial trip, he rented a Honda XLR 250 dirt bike and rode around the country.
“I fell in love,” he says.
In January, he returned with Javelle.
“When Ritchie brought me here, I fell in love with the country too,” Javelle recalls.
They came to make music; they are musicians, after all. But what really drives them is a genuine desire to discover the people of Cambodia.
“We like to live in the Khmer way,” Javelle says. “We aren’t staying in hotels. We have our own place. We want to have a normal life and share things with the Khmer people.”
They have jammed with Sirivudh, and regularly receive offers to play with other local musicians.
“They can share with us their skills,” Boisson says. “And we can share with them our madness.”