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It’s not every day that a vocalist with a truly distinctive voice, extensive musical knowledge and wealth of creativity arrives on the jazz scene.
Cyrille Aimée's latest album “It’s a Good Day” is appropriately titled — this up-and-coming vocalist and winner of numerous awards (Montreux Jazz Festival's International Vocal Competition, the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, Thelonious Monk Vocal Competition) has it all.
“It’s a Good Day” is released on Aug. 19, but don’t wait till then to hear Aimée. She will be at the beautiful Shalin Liu Performance Center on Aug. 14 for the Rockport Jazz Festival. If the diverse repertoire of the new album is any indication, you can expect a mix of standards like Duke Ellington's "Caravan," cleverly arranged covers of pop songs like Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall," and elegantly soft-spoken originals by Aimée. The instrumentation of bass, drums and three guitars also gives the tracks a unique flavor.
But Aimée doesn't need interesting song choices or instrumentation to get attention. On a song like "Off the Wall," the pattering interplay between the guitars creates a texture that's icing on the cake of Aimée's voice. Her rich, luxurious voice takes center stage, in part because she uses it so tastefully. She often holds back, giving her instrument a focused, gentle, yet still powerful sound. This allows her to slide into other timbres — raspy, full — at just the right moments.
Aimée grew up in France and moved to the United States to attend college at SUNY Purchase, where she worked closely with the instrumental faculty. These influences are prominent on Aimée's new album. She sings "Nuit Blanche" in her native French and on many tracks, a percussive guitar backdrop gives a gypsy jazz flavor. Aimée's focus on jazz improvisation is apparent in her sophisticated melodic interpretation and rhythmic approach to vocals. Aimée's sound is a combination of French-gypsy jazz influences with a strong grounding in straight ahead jazz improvisation.
"Love Me or Leave Me," one of the standards on the new album, shows Aimée's jazz sensibility in a gypsy jazz setting. She improvises much of the melody over a Django Reinhardt feel. The fast tempo doesn't stop the rhythmic quality of Aimée's improvisation from bringing the listener inside the groove. Listen to this. It's very easy to get inside Cyrille Aimée's groove.
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