Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 15, No.4, 2016

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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
  Contributing Editors
David Solway
Louis René Beres
Nancy Snipper
Farzana Hassan
Daniel Charchuk
Samuel Burd
Andrée Lafontaine
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Serge Gamache Emanuel Pordes
Diane Gordon
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Chantal Levesque Denis Beaumont
Marcel Dubois
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
Sophie Milman
Annie Poulain
Badi Assad
Donato & Bouchard
Ingrid Jensen
John Roney
Russell Malone
David Binney
Kurt Rosenwinkel
Mimi Fox
Voo Doo Scat
Coral Egan
Martin Taylor
Jordan Officer
Melody Gardot
Jean Vanasse
Yves Léveillé
Sylvain Provost
Louciana Souza
Patricia Barber
Jill Barber
Corrine Bailey Rae
Chet Doxas
François Bourassa
Sylvain Luc
Neil Cowley
Marianne Trudel
Florence K
Terez Montcalm
Cyrus Chestnut
Tord Gustavsen
Sarah MK
Julie Lamontagne
Vincent Gagnon
Arioli & Officer
Jean Félix Mailloux
Becky Noble
Vijay Iyer
Lionel Loueke
Tia Fuller
Cécile McLorin Salvant
Emma Frank
Shai Maestro
Christine Jensen
Vincent Rehel
Kat Edmonson
Jaga Jazzist
Cline & Lage
Fred Hersch
2010 Montreal Guitar Show (Sylvan Luc)

Montreal Jazz Festival 2010







Piano Keyboard


by Robert J. Lewis

Featured artist: ALA.NI


It goes without saying that great voices are few and far between. But when it comes to last judgments, it is what the interpreter brings to the lyric that separates the immortals from everyone else.

Enter, lithe and lissome from London town, on the cusp of becoming the next great voice. Be as it may that her repertoire defies category (it isn’t jazz-pop or pop-jazz) she is unapologetically addicted to slow stuff, the ballads on a slow burn, music with lots of open spaces, which might be a jazz standard, an original composition, or something like her sublime take on Glen Campbell’s “The Wichita Lineman.” She excels in music that most young singers sagaciously (at the insistence of management) shy away from.

For the occasion of Montreal’s 2016 International Jazz Festival at Club Soda, before a capacity crowd that was treated to what can only be described as a favourite wish, the bewitching poured herself into her music, converting the already initiated and just-curious into ardent enthusiasts.

How good is’s voice? Good enough to persuade listeners raised on high-octane rock, Rap and hip-hop to surrender to music and song that recall an earlier era, singers like Joe Stafford and Billie Holiday to mention a few, when music and melody were one and the same.

When singing softly, her range and control are breathtaking: the transitions from middle range to high nearly flawless. With minimum accompaniment – guitar or harp – the music she writes and performs is pared down to its essentials: not a note is wasted, every nuance deliberate and purposeful. Her up-close, tremulous, immaculate, gossamar voice imbues acoustic space with grace and elegance. From one song to the next, we are reminded that decency and civility can find no better vehicle than music for their expression.

During her memorable concert – a jazz festival highlight -- there were several occasions when her accompaniment fell silent, leaving her voice totally exposed, suspended in mid-air "like a diamond in the sky." You weren’t sure if you were listening to a jazz/pop singer or an opera diva, so clean and controlled and confident is the voice – where every inflection and quiver, on the wings of a butterfly, communicate something beyond the words and music, something at once fragile and transcendent. Yes, in the higher octaves it’s risky business, but -- going where few singers dare to tread (trek) -- has made it her abode, carving out a precious niche for herself where her hard won values and world-view meet in the privileged realm of song whose melodies and lyricism remind us of who we are and what we have lost sight and sound of.

Along with retro singers like Montreal’s Susie Arioli, who has made it her mission to revive the swing music of the 30s and 40s,’s choice of music -- its spare instrumentation, insistence on separation of instruments, and the delicate spaces and silences that characterize it -- constitute an open rebellion against the high-voltage, synthesized, monophony-cacophony that monopolizes too much of today’s music gone bad, or lost its way. If there’s an unintended message informing her playlist and presentation, it’s an invitation to return to “quiet thoughts and quiet dreams quiet walks by quiet streams.”

When it comes to getting deep into the lyric, – only in her early 30s – brings uncommon maturity to bear. Not only does she inhabit the lyric, she lives it so completely we’re convinced that this is someone who has already run all of life’s gauntlets and survived intact, is wise beyond her years. In her masterful, totally convincing interpretations, her background in theatre and dance serves her well. On stage, she’s a total natural, doesn’t take herself too seriously, relates to instead of simply entertaining the audience, and uses her luminous eyes and willowy arm movements to cast a spell, like a genie come out of a bottle, fancy turned into flesh: the eye and ear can’t get enough.

Her first complete album, You and I, released in January 2016, is already a major accomplishment. And while we don’t doubt that the sky is the limit for this gifted singer/interpreter, whether or not her retro-repertoire can conquer the world, as it richly deserves, remains to be seen.

There are all sorts of reasons to visit London: Buckingham Palace, Tate Museum, Paul McCartney, Westminster Abbey, Amy Winehouse, Hyde Park's Speakers' Corner . . . to that incomplete list I add the name of singer/songwriter, who is actually doing a Take Five in Paris as of this writing.



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