LIVE: Cyrille Aimee @ The Egg, 2/13/15
I tend to stay away if an artist that’s played Greater Nippertown recently makes a return appearance, if only so one of my colleagues can get a crack at seeing what I’ve seen. I was more than happy to break that rule for Cyrille Aimee’s show at The Egg last weekend, and for two reasons: I wanted to experience the divine intimacy her music creates in a space like The Egg’s Swyer Theatre, and I wanted to see if the riveting performance the vivacious French vocalist served up last fall at Lake George’s Jazz at the Lake festival was a fluke. My results: The intimacy was huge (yes, I know that’s a contradiction), and of the many things Cyrille Aimee is, a fluke is not one of them.
Outside of NYC’s Smalls Jazz Club (where she recorded her fourth CD), the Swyer may be the perfect place to see Aimee, and that became profoundly evident before she’d finished the first verse of her opener “Little White Lies.” Flanked by guitarists Adrien Moignard and Michael Valeanu, Aimee served up the mildly apologetic lyric with a purring alto and a coquettish smile as the piece got just enough push by bassist Sam Anning and drummer Rajiv Jayaweera. The smile turned into a full-blown grin as Moignard’s fingers flew over the fretboard of his acoustic guitar, ginning up the Django Reinhardt vibe that runs through all of Aimee’s recordings. Aimee bop-danced in place as Valeanu’s restrained hollow-body electric sound provided perfect counterpoint for Moignard. Moignard would return that favor more than a few times during the two-set performance.
While Aimee threw a few curveballs, the lion’s share of the evening focused on Aimee’s latest Mack Avenue release It’s a Good Day, with the bouncing title track following “White Lies” like a smiling freight train. Aimee admitted it was difficult singing that song on this evening – not because of the brutal temperatures, but because the band had gotten a traffic ticket on the way to the gig. (Valeanu, who was behind the wheel, had forgotten to turn on the van’s headlights.) As such, The Egg’s sound techs had “about twelve minutes” to get the sound dialed in before the doors opened. Happily, both the singer and the band put all that behind them and delivered a crackerjack show.
The impression I got at Lake George still stands: Aimee IS the ingénue in a French drawing-room comedy who escapes the stage and runs off to be a jazz singer. Between her bouncing curls, her contagious smile, and her infinite energy, you cannot help but fall under Aimee’s spell. But that’s all surface stuff, and only focusing on that does her a grave injustice. As a vocal stylist, Aimee is definitely the real deal. Every piece she gave us – from Great American Songbook chestnuts like “Where or When” and “Love Me or Leave Me” to her outstanding reboot of Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall” – got the exact amount of power and artistry to bring the tune off and stamp Aimee’s signature firmly on it. You didn’t need to speak French to get every nuance in Sidney Bechet’s winsome “Si Tu Vois Ma Mer”, and her duet with Anning on Oscar Pettiford’s “Tricotism” let us see her scat-singing chops, switching from “trombone” to “guitar” as she and Anning proved you don’t need words to make lyrics.
Speaking of lyrics, Aimee doesn’t have to rely on Rodgers & Hart or Donaldson & Kahn to get her material. Her own compositions “Nuit Blanche” (also completely in French) and “One Way Ticket” are truly special, and both tunes allowed her band to stretch out and show the blinding chemistry they share. They also showed you don’t need a wailing guitar and a stack of Marshalls to hit it hard. Moignard and Valeanu’s fretboard gymnastic skills are on an Al DiMeola level, although Valeanu kept the effects-box factor to a satisfying minimum. Anning – the composer of “Bamboo Shoots”, another track from It’s a Good Day – gives the group a third solo voice, and Jayaweera kept the floor both level and lush, painting gorgeous brushstrokes throughout the night.
Aimee closed things out with “Let’s Get Lost,” a Jimmy McHugh/Frank Loesser tune closely associated with Chet Baker – another artist who could make the intimate riveting. Aside from being a sweet capper on the evening, there was a lyric (delivered perfectly by Aimee) that nailed the evening to the wall: “Let’s defrost in a romantic mist.” We certainly needed to defrost, and Cyrille Aimee certainly gifted us with her unique brand of romance.
Greg Haymes’ review at The Times Union
Excerpt from David Singer’s review at The Daily Gazette: “Aimee is not a power singer. She is the opposite — a dainty vocalist that almost never raises her voice. But she’s no nightclub whisperer. She’s deliberately soft, precise, creative and quick. She knows her instrument — her voice. While singing the lines, she doesn’t step out of the songs with unnecessary acrobatics. But when it’s time for a vocal solo, her scatting is phenomenal and sensible at all speeds. They opened with ‘Little White Lies,’ one of the many songs she sang straight and understated. Guitarist Adrien Moignard took the first solo of the night, lifting the crowd with his classic Reinhart approach. Michael Valeanu followed on electric, giving the room the same excitement. The guitarists alternated all night, dueling sometimes, supporting at other times, always stealing the moment with their solos.”
CYRILLE AIMEE SET LIST
Little White Lies
It’s a Good Day
Si Tu Vois Ma Mere
Love Me or Leave Me
Off the Wall
Three Little Words
I Didn’t Know About You
One Way Ticket
Let’s Get Lost