Mon 12 Nov 2012
I first saw and listened to Madeleine Peyroux’s music in the mid-90s. The performance was filmed at one of the major jazz festivals, maybe the one in Montreal, but I am no longer sure. She was in her mid 20s, young, beautiful and with a powerful voice. I immediately placed her high on my appreciation scale, as one of the potential divas of the coming decades.
Somehow my prediction did not fully come true. Soon after she disappeared from the front of the international musical scene, and when she came back she did not seem to fully accomplish her potential. One of the reasons I believe is that Peyroux is too respectful to the traditions she is in love with – classical vocal jazz, French chansonettes and the big ballad artists (Dylan, Leonard Cohen). She is the perfect performer to take a famous song and give it a completely new life that makes you forget the original interpretation. She does not compose too many original songs, or maybe she does not play enough of them, although the ones I heard are all original. They are however too few to create her the musical basis to become one of the divas. Maybe she foes not thrive to become one.
The Georgia-born Madeleine Peyroux played in the last years in many famous places, she appeared in prestigious series like the Abbey Road Studio Recordings. And she is an excellent live performer, as I could see last night at the Reading 3 club in Tel Aviv, a stop in a tour which will further take her to France, Turkey and the US.
Peyroux impresses as soon as she starts singing. A tall and powerful woman close to her 40s she is not any longer the beautiful young girl I remembered, but as soon as she talks you feel her non-formal and direct personality, and as soon as she sings you cannot but vibrate to her strong and yet so sensitive voice. A first (non-Obama ) joke established immediately the relation with the audience, she explains her music in simple words and in a style that seriously asks you not to take her too seriously.
Every instrumental sequence is listened with attention and appreciated by her as leader of the band. Gary Versace at piano and organ reached incandescence in a couple of pieces, and guitarist John Harrington also demonstrated that he is a fine musician. I was not enthusiastic about Israeli-born bass player Barak Mori (too slow to my taste) but I enjoyed the local guest performer trumpet player Avishai Cohen.
The program was a combination of classical jazz, soul (‘I Can’t Stop Loving You’), ballads and two or maybe three original songs which just proved what a fine musician Peyroux can be.
Among the last songs of the evening Peyroux sand a song in French (which she does in every show as a salute to her French ancestry) and Leonard Cohen’s Dancing to the End of Love which she re-created in a manner that made an enthusiast even of a non-fan of Cohen as I happen to be.
The Web site of the artist can be found at http://madeleinepeyroux.com/.