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Standards, Old and New

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Cyrille Aimée, whose initial experience with singing Sondheim came only six years ago during a series of City Center performances in New York, has taken a fresh look at this music, setting it in new and exciting arrangements. The results have been captured on her new album, “Move On: A Sondheim Adventure” (Mack Avenue 1144). The opening track, “When I Get Famous”, is an a cappella set-piece featuring Cyrille and a digital looping machine—a far cry from anything heard in a Sondheim musical! A joyous New Orleans groove propels the optimistic “Take Me to the World”, in which Cyrille finds room for an extended scat solo. The verse of “Love, I Hear” has a recognizable touch of Sondheim’s style, but the style soon changes to a loose-limbed jazz waltz featuring Cyrille’s bubbly vocals, Mathias Levy’s elegant violin, Assaf Gleizner’s cushiony Rhodes and Jérémy Bruyère’s dancing bass. The same rhythm section (with Thomas Enhco subbing for Gleizner on acoustic piano) transforms “Loving You” into a smooth-swinging jazz feel. The borderline neurotic lyrics of “Marry Me a Little” are tempered by Diego Figueiredo’s acoustic guitar and an elegant string quartet. As she does on all of these tracks, Cyrille’s exquisite diction and her persuasive delivery retain the original messages intended by the composer (nowhere better than on the title track) and it is to Sondheim’s credit that his words and music can retain its power, even in the most radical transformations, including the burning samba treatment of “Being Alive”, the double-tempo Gypsy jazz arrangement of “So Many People” or the electronics-infused setting of “I Remember”. Cyrille’s mixed meter rendition of “Not While I’m Around” may lack the fierce intensity of the version from “Sweeney Todd”, but we still believe that she will protect her lover from all adversaries. I am particularly impressed with the bass/vocal duet on “They Ask Me Why I Believe in You” and the gospel arrangement of “No One is Alone” (featuring Bruyère and guitarist Ralph Lavital, respectively), and I wonder if Sondheim—who claims to know little about jazz—was surprised at the new settings. When he first heard Cyrille sing one of his songs at City Center, Sondheim admitted that he broke into tears. He attended Cyrille’s performance of this music at the Manhattan jazz club Birdland earlier this year, and the photos show him to be very pleased. Perhaps Cyrille’s example will inspire other performers to examine Sondheim’s work as songs, not as mere Broadway specialties.

Article shared from Jazz History Online


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Move On: A Sondheim Adventure

Cyrille Aimée #: MAC1144 RELEASED: 02/22/19