St Germain’s award-winning 2000 album, Tourist, was an intercontinental smash, with a tour to match. The fact that it was originally released by legendary jazz label Blue Note is a testament to its forward-thinking, free-flowing amalgam of ideas, from deep house to jazz, Latin and dub reggae – a mix just as likely to attract fans of acid jazz as it is fans of the French touch scene from which the man born Ludovic Navarre and contemporaries such as Daft Punk and Cassius emerged. Released on 29 January 2021, two decades after the original album, the Tourist: 20th Anniversary Travel Versions remix project proved there’s still mileage in this St Germain classic.
Listen to Tourist: 20th Anniversary Travel Versions here
“You can travel anytime, everywhere, with music”
“Blue Note was perfect for me,” Navarre tells Dig! “It’s the one and only – so elegant – jazz record label, gathering artists that made jazz history. And Blue Note goes on signing artists like Norah Jones and new talents like Jorja Smith.” Noting that the label’s support of Tourist got his music to wider audience, Navarre admits, “I got there on my tiptoes. I was intimidated!… Sales and Grammys have rewarded my work. I wasn’t expecting that much. Then my agent was able to book me on festivals like the North Sea and Montreux [jazz festivals], which enabled me to discover a jazz audience and draw their attention to electronic music with live musicians.” Life without jazz, Navarre says, “would look like a world that is missing freedom”.
The Travel Versions edition of Tourist lets Navarre’s international collaborators loose on key pieces from the evergreen album, focusing on engaging remakes of singles such as Rose Rouge, Sure Thing and So Flute. Navarre says “the artists were given completely free rein for selecting the song, and for the musical production”. But how did revisiting such a successful album, with its themes of travel, feel during a year in which COVID-19 restrictions forced the majority of the world to stay at home?
“I started to think about the project in November 2019,” Navarre says. “Then when the pandemic was announced, everything and everybody was shut down. We came back to it in June 2020… but even if you’re stuck at home, you can still travel anytime, everywhere, with music.” Had the pandemic affected how he went about the project? “Not at all. Warner Music France were very enthusiastic and very involved. It was without restrictions. They were determined to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Tourist. The producers from abroad are all very easy to work with, even in the context of distance work.” For Navarre, the Travel Versions project “made me feel like coming back to my musical roots: blues, Latin, jazz”.