September 2004         back

Madeleine Peyroux : Sept 24th at Le Jazz Au Bar

When Norah Jones became such a big sensation a few years ago, I remember thinking that maybe Madeleine Peyroux was just ahead of her time.  Her 1996 album, Dreamland, had received impressive critical acclaim and, like Norah Jones, took a surprisingly subdued, jazzy and sensual approach to music for a 23 year old artist.  I wonder if Norah's success had anything to do with Madeleine getting another shot eight years after her debut album? Her new release, Careless Love, seems to pick up right where Dreamland left off.

 While Norah Jones tends to do original and contemporary material, Madeleine's debut covered a wide swath of 20th century music from Edith Piaf (La Vie en Rose) to Patsy Cline (Walkin' After Midnight) along with several originals added to the mix. Critics made numerous obvious comparisons to Billie Holiday for her lilting voice and phrasing.

 Her new effort tackles Hank Williams (Weary Blues), Bob Dylan (You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go), Josephine Baker (J'ai Deux Amours),  Bessie Smith (Careless Love) and Leonard Cohen (Dance Me to the End of Love) along with contemporary tunes such as Between the Bars by Elliott Smith (best known for his waltz tune in the movie Good Will Hunting) and Don't Wait Too Long co-written by Madeleine with Jesse Harris of Norah Jones fame.

She opened this show with the Leonard Cohen song and proceeded to perform selections from both CD's including many of the songs mentioned above. Playing acoustic guitar and backed by upright bass, piano, drums and trumpet she navigated  the territory of blues, swing, jazz, pop and folk all with equal ease. In fact, I would say that what most impressed me was her song selection. It was an evening of widely diverse familiar songs performed in a "sit back and relax" manner.

Her band was excellent, particularly her trumpet player. She's got a soothing and relaxed voice but I'm not ready to proclaim her, as some critics have, as the next Billie Holiday. When she's on, her voice is quite beautiful, but some of the material is still slightly out of her reach. All things considered, an enjoyable show but not one that would have me rushing back to see again as I've been known to do for shows that knock my socks off.

This was my first time in Le Jazz Au Bar and I was very impressed. It has the look of an exclusive club with art, sofas, plush chairs and ottomans, a library, and four leather booths behind the small tables in front of the stage. Very nice and good sound too! They've only been booking jazz for about six months and I know Karrin Allison and Lizz Wright have both appeared recently. A return visit is highly likely.

NRBQ : Sept 19th at Raritan River Festival

For 35 years, NRBQ (New Rhythm and Blues Quartet) has been playing good old-fashioned rock and roll. With guitar, bass, keyboards, drums, two horns and a singer (they super-sized the quartet), they can sound like a 50's doo wop band, a 60's garage band or a boogie woogie honky tonk bar band. Like most garage or bar bands, their harmonies are sometimes a little off and they do occasionally hit a flat note, but nobody seems to care because they're having so much fun. According to their web site, Keith Richards has called them the best rock and roll band in America.

It's been a quiet month for me. I was very busy with work and I didn't want to go into the City when the Republicans were there. I assure you, I will make up for it in October.


  Julia Fordham : Sept 7th at Joe's Pub

After being introduced and receiving a rousing welcome, Julia announced to the audience that she might have to move to New York because the water makes her hair immaculate. She added that water in L.A. makes her hair frizzy. I would gladly help her with the move.

Julia is a British singer songwriter whose music would best be described as a mix of jazz and pop music and can be very sultry and sensuous. Judy and I both love her voice and her songwriting.  Her 1989 album, Porcelain, is her most jazzy and one of my all time favorite albums, and her two most recent albums, Concrete Love. and her new release That's Life, are excellent jazzy pop albums. 

She performed several songs from her new release and many crowd favorites from earlier albums including Manhattan Skyline, Porcelain, Love, Stay, Concrete Love  and Happy Ever After. She told us that she's just recorded a DVD of a live concert in L.A. which includes a duet with India.arie. For her encore, she announced that she was going to go "straight jazz" for her next album and did a new jazz song which she had recently written. Her new album was just released and I'm already looking forward to her next one.