Cyrille Aimée Duo, Gardyne Theatre, Dundee, Wednesday November 19th ****
A fresh breeze blew into Dundee on the opening night of its jazz festival on Wednesday, in the shape of the exuberant young French singer Cyrille Aimée, who was making her Scottish debut, accompanied by her regular guitarist Michael Valeanu.
It was clear from the off that Aimée is a unique new addition to the jazz singing scene. The voice is gentle, beguiling, soft-edged and infused with an uplifting quality on many of the songs, and she revealed a great set of scatting chops – most sensationally on the piece de la résistance vocalese version of Thelonious Monk’s Straight No Chaser towards the end of her set. That number was a surprise even though Aimée had already demonstrated that hers is a repertoire that can’t be second-guessed: everything from Serge Gainsbourg to Antonio Carlos Jobim, via Edith Piaf (whose T’es beau, tu sais offered the first opportunity of the evening to hear the New York-based vocalist sing in her own language).
Indeed, with her petite physique and very expressive hands, Aimée was a bit like Piaf – a happy Piaf – though, unlike the Little Sparrow, her expressive hands were often used to simulate slide trombone solos when she scatted. She also demonstrated a knack for reimagining even the most familiar of songs.
It was a wonderful debut but met with a rather reserved response from the crowd which, it turned out, was saving its clapping strength for Rose Room, the Hot Club-inspired Scottish quartet which made its mark at a previous edition of the jazz festival.
* First published in The Scotsman, Saturday November 22nd