Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 5, No. 3, 2006

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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Mark Goldfarb
  Contributing Editors
Bernard Dubé
Phil Nixon
Robert Rotondo
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Emanuel Pordes
Diane Gordon
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Jazz Contributors

Tommy Emmanuel
John Stetch
Susie Arioli
Coral Egan
Diana Krall
Stacey Kent
Carol Welsman
Aldo Romano
Denzal Sinclaire
Madeleine Peyroux
Bireli Lagrene
Sonido Isleño
Provost & Lachapelle
Kevin Breit
Montreal Jazz Festival 2005







Piano Keyboard


by Robert J. Lewis

Featured artist: SOPHIE MILMAN
Sophie Milman

For the first half of Sophie Milman’s concert at The Spectrum (Montreal), I was seated in the back. But even from there, I couldn’t help but notice the singer’s remarkable stage poise, the kind you usually see in performers who have been in the limelight since they were kids (Michael Jackson comes to mind). For the second set, now seated in the second row, I could see that the singer was very young (she’s only 23), and that her poise comes from being able to handle with great ease and enjoyment complex music that has already been handled by the best. If for some performers, the stage is a wide open, scary space that would be off limits if it weren’t for a ready supply of serenity for sale, for Sophie, it’s her first home and refuge from worlds where making it big and taking it home are all that matters.

Born in Russia, bred in Israel and now residing in Toronto, Sophie Milman is no stranger to dislocation and starting over again, and meets the “are you experienced” criterion with grace notes to spare. All of this and more comes through in her love affair with song, served by a rich, soulful voice that is as suitable for the soul genre as the standards she loves. People are already asking, how good is this 23-year-old going on 30? For the 2005 edition of the Juno awards, she was nudged out by none other than Diana Krall for best female jazz vocalist, which means, paraphrasing The Duke, “she’s already got it good and that ain’t bad.”

Given her international background, it's no surprise that Sophie sings in several languages, including Russian, Portuguese and French. In fact an evening with Sophie is a tour of world culture, guided by a voice that rises to the occasion of husky and voluptuous for songs such as “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” and “My Baby Just Cares for Me,” and twilight smokey for “La Vie en Rose.”

For the most part, her repertoire is astutely chosen; in her wisdom she stays away from the tough ballads. Interpretively, she manages to find new ways of saying what has already been said -- and said well. Sophie is fond of the lush, big band sound and succeeds in bringing it out even in the context of a quartet. Her astonishingly original, rhythmically arresting counterpoint rendering of the Leon Russell classic “This Masquerade” is simply the best I’ve ever heard.

Most critics will tell you that the jazz voice doesn’t begin to come into its own until the age of 40, when enough hurts and damage have been accumulated so the singer’s entire repertoire is steeped in it. Which means between now and then, we’ll be waiting for a voice that is powerful enough to make the Urals crumble, to make rain patter and leaves flutter, and for her many influences to evolve into self-confluences so Sophie’s choices will become Sophie’s songs and listeners’ first choices. That said, at 23, this unmistakeable talent is already way ahead of the game, on the uptempo of a learning curve that I’ll be following with great interest.

John Coltrane
Miles Davis
Thelonius Monk
Charlie Mingus
Oscar Peterson
Charlie Parker
Dizzy Gillespie
Wes Montgomery
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