a near wisp of a thing on stage (I felt like tossing her a food
ration), but her presence is large and luminous.
Bailey Rae, the pride of Leeds, was last in Montreal for the 2006
Jazz Festival. Since then, she’s had to suffer
through the tragic death of her husband in 2008 -- saxophonist
Jason Rae -- and has only recently willed herself back into the
current of life by doing what she does best: writing and performing
(formerly Gillett Entertainment Group), Corinne Bailey Rae played
to a standing room only crowd at Club
Soda last night (April 28th) in a memorably affecting
concert that featured music from her latest CD, The Sea.
first and most lasting effect of Bailey Rae’s radiantly
smallish but cozy and deceptively strong voice is to make you
wish you could get close to her -- and not because of her growing
star power and darling looks, but because her music engages those
very special, intimate feelings that engender relationships. This
outcome results from the joy and deep commitment she brings to
the musical spaces she creates and wholly and happily inhabits.
music marks out a realm that listeners gravitate to on wings of
songs that reveal the indivisibility of the person and her music.
The distinct voice can suddenly modulate, like legs turning rubbery,
from strong and clear to a quaver, or confidently bottom-feed
from an abyss in order to find out how high is the moon. It’s
as if her musical ideas are summoned with the express purpose
of challenging them, the means and method of which become synonymous
with style, which in composition is that unique musical interval
that reveals the particularities of the artist in his or her dealings
with life. Her expression (emoting), in its range and transparency,
and wonderfully served by highly original phrasing, is unusual
for someone just turned 31, the fact of which speaks to the constancy
of her being her own person when the marketing powers that be
would have it otherwise.
night’s concert confirms that Corinne Bailey Rae is at her
best staying within herself, and as such, she stands out like
a fresh bloom in a wilderness of glitter and pretension. In her
easy manner and undertones, she is all rhapsody in blue. Everything
about her is anti-diva. On stage, she appeared in a simple jumpsuit
that she might wear again and again (check out her youtube.com
videos) because she likes it and feels right in it. In another
venue, she'll don an outfit one might wear to a family dinner
that includes the grandparents. She doesn’t bump or grind
or flash midriff or play to the camera, and has no truck with
the protocols of video culture whose role models are dolled-up,
hyper-sexed, ovulating super women.
that Bailey Rae refuses the monotonality (Rap, Hip-Hop) that has
captured the hearts and minds of especially younger audiences
for whom music that modulates is uncool. Her soulful compositions
are often jazz inflected and deliciously unstable: the changes
seem to come out of nowhere, and her powers of invention are formidable.
She has already impressed Stevie Wonder, which means she can write
– and supply heart-stopping melodies that are in chronic
CD, The Sea, contains her best, most consistent writing
to date, most notably the slow stuff, the ballads such as “Love’s
On Its Way,” “I Would Like To Call It Beauty”
and “Diving For Hearts.” The music, forged in the
crucible of necessity, offers Alt worlds to the real world that,
for too many, no longer feels like home -- and the adoring audience
surrendered to it like a dry season to a long awaited rain. Bailey
Rae wants to be somewhere else and the effort required of songwriting
is how she gets there. Does she possess the auditorium-friendly,
octave-bending voice of a Mariah Carey or Céline Dion?
Even better, she has her own voice, just as Sting and Norah Jones
reservations about the CD -- and not the concert -- concern the
production values. The bass is sometimes too heavy and thick,
overwhelming what is delicately wrought in the music, and on several
of the tracks the ambient studio sound is a bit too slick. That
said, Corinne Bailey Rae is the real deal, about whom much more
will be written and spoken while she quietly goes about her day
making beautiful music – for the rock of ages?
reported that Bailey Rae simply loves her latest band. Based on
the CD, I’m not sure if this is a good thing, mind you I’ve
no quarrel with last night’s dreadlock-tight rhythm section
and superlative, 4-part, back up vocals.