At noon on Saturday, July 25, Renée Yoxon (vocals) and René Gely (guitars) created a zone of unusual quiet around the Rendez-Vous Rideau [Centre] Jazz stage. They proved that musicians don't need to be loud to get an attentive and appreciative audience.
There is a certain swinging jazz vocal style – the descendant of Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan – frequently associated with singing the Great American Songbook. Yoxon certainly sings some of that repertoire, but she and Gely have collaborated to create a very different sound.
It's stripped-down. It's still jazz: the syncopation hasn't gone away, but it's unadorned and speaks directly to the heart. Every word of the lyrics is clear and important, even in the jazzier numbers.
In songs like Miles Davis' "All Blues" (which opened the set), you could hear the blues in Gely's strong guitar lines and Yoxon's scatting which echoed the guitar, but the concentration was still on her smooth, almost wave-like delivery of the words. (This was the third time she had performed this song in three days: once at a festival jam, once on CBC Radio, and then here, and each version was subtly different in delivery and yet the same song.)
In "There's a Small Hotel" by Rodgers and Hart, "Ask Me Now" by Thelonious Monk, and "Jolene" by Dolly Parton, Yoxon simply delivered the pathos of lost love straight on, without overemphasis. In "Isn't It Romantic?" by Rodgers and Hart, she played the lyrics both ways, and the acerbity of the guitar underlined the double meaning. "Dat Dere" (dedicated to all those with young children or who know young children) and "Candy", with their infectious rhythms, were simply fun to listen to.
The duo added more standards than usual, with songs like "Bye Bye Blackbird", where both played with the timing, moving it forward and dragging it back to create a sophisticated sound.
Later in the set they moved into songs from their CD, which was released last October. Their delivery of "The Look of Love" and "Let's Call It a Day" (the title track of the CD) both received quiet attention and loud applause from the audience. Yoxon noted that Gely had actually had an American listener request his arrangement of "The Look of Love" from the CD. He was playing from exactly that transcription, and showed off the three pages of music to the crowd afterwards.
Dolefully, Yoxon announced that she couldn't sell any physical copies of the CD, because the run of 500 had sold out. Listeners can still buy a download via reneeyoxon.com.
The set ended with the standard "Centerpiece", a strongly syncopated number that still remember it was a love song even among the scatting.
This was Yoxon's and the duo's first appearance at the Ottawa Jazz Festival. Listeners and performers alike would get more out of an intimate show like this in the late-night OLG stage, where everyone has come to listen for an entire show.
– Alayne McGregor
- Renée Yoxon and René Gely talk about making 'Let's Call It a Day' CD
- 'My First NAC' recognizes three promising Ottawa jazz artists
All photos ©Brett Delmage, 2011