Wednesday, May 15, 2013

French Chanteuse Cyrille Aimee with Pete Malinverni at Pound Ridge Community Church May 12, 2013

Cyrille Aimee
On a beautiful Sunday afternoon that just happened to be Mother's Day, the young singer Cyrille Aimee performed at the last of a series of Jazz Vespers concerts presented at the Pound Ridge Community Church in Pound Ridge New York. Musical director Pete Malinverni has been instrumental in developing this fine musical program.

With the sun streaming through the windows of this serene and welcoming sanctuary,  Mr. Malinverni recalls how he first met the singer as a student at SUNY Purchase Jazz Conservatory program where he taught her improvisation and harmony. During her four years of study with Mr. Malinverni, he witnessed the maturation of this fine vocalist, as she developed from student to  a sensation, with frequent air play on the radio and a Sunday residency at the famous Carlyle Hotel in NYC. The twenty-seven year old chanteuse has a youthful , spritely appearance, accentuated by her attractive smile, her overflowing mane of bouncy curls and her palpable energy. She wore a red and white print dress that came to her knees revealing long shapely legs mounted on red heels, a look that certainly does her record sales no harm. But Ms. Aimee is not just a another pretty face. She has a marvelous light voice and she exudes a charming perkiness that comes from genuine enthusiasm for her music.
Cyrille Aimee and Pete Malinverni 
The two musicians, and Ms Aimee is a musician's singer, started the set with the Jimmy Van Heusen/Johnny Burke song " It Could Happen to You." Mr. Malinverni utilized a walking bass line with his left hand and a foot cymbal on his left foot to create his own rhythm section. Aimee's voice is light, almost wispy but possesses a warmth that gives it depth and intimacy She glides through notes accenting the lyrics with her own sense of their meaning, making the song her own.

On "I'm in the mood for Love" her delivery was coy and girlish. Mr. Malinverni played block chording in the style of George Shearing behind her vocalizations. Often the two would exchange ideas in a musical call and response.

The duo picked up the pace on Ellington's 1932 classic " It Don't Mean a Thing ( If it A'int Got That Swing)." Mr. Malinverni is an animated accompanist who often prods the singer along, encouraging her, pushing her into more daring improvisational forays, and Ms. Aimee responds in kind. During the quick tempo-ed scatting section she dazzled the audience with her easy precision and fluid invention. Ms. Aimee immerses herself in her performance, often times shimmying rhythmically in time to the music as the pianist provides the swing. Her scatting employs smooth glissandi with the occasionally surprising intervallic leap which she executes flawlessly.

Pianist/Educator/Musical Directo  Pete Malinverni
Mr. Malinverni took a brief intermission to talk to the audience, many who are regular members of this congregation. He read a particularly amusing section on aging and vitality from the biography of the Catalian cellist Pablo Cassals, no stranger to either of those concepts.

The duo returned with "Gone With the Wind" which Aimee sang with a light, bluesy feel. When she improvised, she would often imitate the action of a trombone, with her hands sliding through notes much like her vocalizations, more slithery than punctuated.

A beautiful lead in by pianist Malinverni opened the classic "Body and Soul." Here, Ms. Aimee's voice was particularly poignant. Her inflections and tone held traces of a young Billie Holiday with none of the pathos. She possess a voice that is at times more coquettish than womanly, but her feel for the lyric is genuine and mature.

After a stirringly inventive piano solo by Mr. Malinverni, where he cleverly extended the boundaries of the melody to their outermost limits, Ms. Aimee scatted her notes effortlessly, ending the song with a gliss-like scat at the coda.

Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies"was given a happy, uptempo treatment allowing the singer to demonstrate the fluidity of her creative vocalizing at double time speed.  Mr. Malinverni did a neat switch, using his left hand to play the melody and his right hand to keep the rhythm going. The two would  play off each others ideas in a conversational mode that required attentive mutual awareness. I heard Ms. Amiee introduce snippets of songs like " In Walked Bud" much to Mr. Malinverni's surprise and amusement, using these references as sources of inspiration during the improv sections.

Mr. Malinverni once again paused to do a reading from a Langston Hughes poem titled' Earth Song" before continuing with a chirpy version of "All of Me," to which he added a stirring solo.

Ms. Aimee's French heritage, her father was French and her mother Dominican, came to light with her rendition of an Edith Piaf song which mesmerized the audience with her captivating style and her command of the romantic language with all its stylish elements.

Juan Tizol's "Caravan" featured an ostinato piano bass line by Mr. Malinverni as Aimee sang to the exotic rhythm at an easy, fluid tempo that had hints her gypsy influences.

On the slow ballad " I Thought  About You" the singer gave the song a beautiful and heartfelt rendering that made you feel the yearning implicit in the lyrics. She wrinkles her nose when she sings a particularly meaningful passage and you can feel yourself buying into the sentiment she infuses into the song.

After a rousing applause from an audience she had already captured, the duo finished the set with  "All the Things You Are."  She embraces the words and you realize that there is a nostalgic aspect to her voice. Ms. Aimee's sound is coy but  innocent, passionate but genteel. A throwback to another era where the sensitive ballad was savored for its intimacy and its ability to make that human connection with the listener. Perhaps it was her exposure to the gypsy soul of her hometown of Samosis Sur Seine, where she absorbed this quality of genuineness, a sense of heart. Whatever it is she exudes an earnest conviction for the music that cannot be faked and maybe it is is the feeling of honesty in her voice that sets her apart.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a winning performance--staying with the standards (I'm hearing young vocalists occasionally dismissing them as the "same old fake book" songs. The result: the unswinging Glad Rag Doll.) I'm sure this performance demonstrated what the great singer-interpreters have discovered--that these enduring songs are far more than words and notes on a lead sheet. The possibilities for interpretation are infinite and change with each performance. (As Lady Day insisted, "I sing what I feel." And Sinatra recorded 8 versions of "Night and Day," each totally unlike the other.)

    It's good to hear that as a duo they used no drum machine, sequencers, karaoke devices--instead, all in "real time." Also, a dynamite clip (another good one is Dexter's version on "Go"). Frahm is from my neck of the woods (Kenosha-Racine, WI).