Born: Ludovic Navarre; Boulogne-Billancourt, France
Best-selling album since 1990: Tourist (2000)
Hit songs since 1990: "Rose Rouge," "Deep in It," "Montego Bay Spleen"
Noted composer, producer, and mix master Ludovic Navarre, known by his stage name St. Germain, became one of the leading names in the rising French electronic music scene of the late 1990s. His pioneering style mixed modern dance-music styles like house and electronica with jazz elements.
As a teenager, St. Germain loved sailing and wind-surfing. St. Germain began experimenting with music mixing with a computer he received while recovering from an accident. From his early testing, St. Germain became a fanatic, slowly incorporating many of the influences he grew up with such as jazz and blues. St. Germain counts his influences as Fela Kuti, Miles Davis, Marvin Gaye, Lightning Hopkins, and Burning Spear, among others.
His early disc jockey work at private parties inspired DJs to mix and match elements of ambient blues, techno, jazz, dub, and house. In the early 1990s St. Germain worked under various aliases including Subsystem, Modus Vivendi, and Deepside, for a range of French imprints. He eventually teamed up with another Frenchman, DJ/producer Laurent Garnier, for whose label F Communications, St. Germain recorded his debut Boulevard (1996). It eventually sold more than 300,000 copies worldwide and was later named record of the year in England. The album fuses bluesy vocals, ambient hip-hop-flavored house beats, and live jazz. An influential work, it helped develop, alongside French artists such as Daft Punk and Air, the late-1990s French house scene.
It was also durable. In 2002 Boulevard peaked at number seventeen on Billboard 's Top Contemporary Jazz
Albums chart and at number twenty-five on Billboard 's Top Electronic Albums chart. St. Germain's innovative and popular work brought him to the attention of the legendary American jazz label Blue Note, whose representatives signed St. Germain and released his follow-up Tourist (2000). St. Germain built upon his chief strengths, the seamless blending, mixing, looping, and sampling of dance rhythms by adding jazz musicians to solo over his rough-edged patchworks. These included keyboardist Alexandre Destrez, trumpeter Pascal Ohse, saxophonist-flutist Edouard Labor, and percussionist Edmondo Carneiro. St. Germain also incorporated vocal samplings and trance piano stylings. The main revelation though was the musical possibilities that came with wrapping electronica and house rhythms around a jazz ensemble. In tracks like "Rose Rouge" and "Montego Bay Spleen," one can hear snippets of funk, jazz, samba, old-style blues, gospel, soul, and Jamaican dub reggae. Despite the occasional meandering jams, the album is infused with smooth-bumping dance rhythms.
On his tours St. Germain used many of the same musicians to complement his work as live mixer and loop master. The album went gold in France, and Rolling Stone magazine named it one of the Top 50 albums of 2000. It also peaked at number one on Billboard 's Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart in the United States. Billboard named St. Germain the Top Contemporary Jazz Artist in 2000 and Tourist was named Top Contemporary Jazz album of 2001. From Detroit to St. Germain (2001) was released by F Communications as a compilation of St. Germain's early work, B-sides, and outtakes.
Few artists have been able to experiment successfully with so many divergent music styles or generated as much fanfare. In record stores, St. Germain's albums have been filed under acid jazz, house, new age, and electronica sections.
Boulevard (F Communications, 1996); Tourist (Blue Note, 2000).