Cyrille Aimée Trio: A Sondheim Adventure
Ottawa Jazz Festival
National Arts Centre, Studio
Thursday, June 27, 2019 – 7 p.m.

I heard the first half of Cyrille Aimée's concert at the 2019 Ottawa Jazz Festival. Performing with Canadian pianist Adrean Farrugia and American bassist Philip Kuehn, the French jazz vocalist paid tribute to musical theatre composer Stephen Sondheim.

Sondheim's Broadway tunes were given a strongly jazz interpretation from the entire trio, and Aimée did full justice to his lyrics with beautifully clear diction and careful understanding. Opening with the joyful love song “Losing My Mind”, she scatted as much as sang, her bright syllables echoing Farrugia's sequences of sparkling piano notes.

She told the audience she was only introduced to Sondheim's music a few years ago, and found it to be “une beaucoup de belle musique!” This year she released a collection of his songs, Move On: A Sondheim Adventure, music taken from many of his musicals with an emphasis on love songs. She told the audience stories about many of the songs, vividly describing the plots of the shows they were taken from, with a touch of humour.

It was a bilingual concert, with Aimée singing “One More Kiss” from Follies in French and also talking to the audience several times in that language. Interestingly, she displayed effectively no French accent when singing in English, and very little when speaking English.

Highlights included a soulful “No One is Alone” from Into the Woods, with a warm gospel feel on both piano and vocals, and a dramatic “Being Alive” from Company, with Aimée singing the final phrase on a strong held note – and the audience responding with intense applause.

I enjoyed what I heard of the concert: all three musicians performed with verve and careful communication, honouring Sondheim and also giving their own jazz gloss to his music.

Photos of this performance are not available because the Ottawa Jazz Festival denied's request for news media accreditation for founder, journalist and photojournalist Brett Delmage for the 9th consecutive year.