Feb 21, 2019
Almost exactly two years ago, I spoke with French singer Cyrille Aimee about her second album for Mack Avenue, Let’s Get Lost. It had been recorded with her long-time collaborators, the Surreal Band, and carved out a spot for her as a new voice to be reckoned with on the jazz scene.
Fast forward two years, and like most artists worth their salt, Cyrille has grown and changed. Breaking with the band, she moved to New Orleans, began participating in the Scene, and immersed herself in the music of Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim. She had recorded his “Live Alone and Like It” on Let’s Get Lost, and was anxious to learn more. Finding that most jazz musicians she knew were unfamiliar with his work outside of his outlier “hits” like “Send in the Clowns”, Cyrille poured through his lyrics, and yet stayed away from cast recordings or other singer’s versions to bring her own fresh approach to the tunes.
The result is the aptly named Move On: A Sondheim Adventure. It is one of the few albums where Sondheim is acknowledged as a crucial part of The Great American Songbook (maybe called Part Two?) and yet modern in every way. Cyrille dug deep into the Sondheim archives, and came up with tracks from unproduced musicals (“Climb High” and “They Ask me Why I Believe in You”); cult favorites (“Take Me to the World” from Evening Primrose and “So Many People” from Saturday Night; and the oft-recorded tunes like Sweeney Todd’s “Not While I’m Around” and Company’s closing tune, “Being Alive.”
But what makes this the adventure the title promises are the arrangements Cyrille wrote, often in collaboration with keyboardist Assaf Gleziar. Putting her unique voice to good use - sometimes chirpy, sometimes purring – Sondheim’s tunes show new facets by changes of tempo, style and texture. The album closing “With So Little to Be Sure Of” is given a samba beat, and both “Being Alive” and “Take Me to the World” benefit from up-tempo speeds. Clearly her time in New Orleans is at work here. The ballads, particularly “Loving You” are polished and smooth, moving to the ears.
Podcast 665 is my latest conversation with Cyrille Aimee, as she shares her Sondheim adventure with us. Musical selections from the CD include “With So Little to Be Sure Of,” “I Remember”, “Loving You”, and “Take Me to the World.”