Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 13, No.4, 2014

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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
Vijay Iyer
Lionel Loueke
Tia Fuller
Cécile McLorin Salvant
2010 Montreal Guitar Show (Sylvan Luc)
2008 Jazz en Rafale Festival (Montreal) - Mar. 27th - April 5th -- Tél. 514-490-9613 ext-101 (featuring David Binney)
Montreal Jazz Festival 2010







Piano Keyboard


by Robert J. Lewis

Featured artist: EMMA FRANK


Among the many things the Montreal International Jazz Festival does better than well is discover new talent. Which is why we can expect to hear a lot more from Montreal singer Emma Frank, who, for the festival's 2014 edition, did everything right before an exceptionally appreciative audience at Le Savoy -- a cozy venue that brings the audience into the “I wanna hold your hand” range.

What Emma Frank brings first and foremost to her highly original and winning repertoire is formidable songwriting skills, an aspect of music that is too often neglected or downplayed or overwhelmed by the technical side of song production. Not unlike jazz singer Cassandra Wilson, much of whose repertoire falls outside jazz, Emma Frank’s creative muse draws from the fringes of pop as well as the twangy side of western, but it is all made to pass through the crucible of jazz -- from the brushy percussion to the dreamy trumpet and keyboard intervals. We soar on melodies that can be easily sung without instruments, but always on the currents of jazz.

From the heart and at the heart of Emma Frank’s very affecting music is wanting to be somewhere else. Between the words and the spaces in the melodies, hers is a music that wants to break free from whatever is holding us back. The songs, in their cumulative effects, speak to many who long for solace and respite from a world that doesn’t make any sense, a world all gone wrong, a world that now includes alternative music in its mix. By staying close to the source of the conflict and making her songwriting equal to it, Emma Frank’s very particular musical interval (signature) comes to the fore. Her compositions are invariably excuses to take off, but not fly off at the handle. They begin in terra firma, and only very gradually, sensually, do they evolve into sweeping, majestic, transcendental ascensions where the getting there is at least as satisfying as the goal beyond.

The very meticulously crafted textures and modulations wouldn’t be possible without a very competent and complicitous band which provides the breathing room and oxygen for the voyage. Her debut album, For Being Apart, features Phil Melanson on drums, Isis Giraldo on piano and Hans Bernard on bass.

As is often the case, by the time a CD is released, the artist, in live performance, is already somewhere else. Some of Frank’s best songwriting, such as in “Clouds” and “Woven Together” and the radiant (and vastly superior) cover of Becca Stevens’s “Weightless,” do not appear in her first album. Also absent is the lush and ethereal trumpet of Simon Miller and the richly textured, celestial keyboard-synth accompaniment of Isis Giraldo. All of this and more will show up in her second CD, which should be available before the end of the year.

But it is Emma Frank’s highly personalized voice that delivers the goods. If certain voices originate in the stomach or diaphragm, hers emerges from the top of her head, or from the back of a cave or far away place; it could easily fit into an opera chorus. Combine Madeleine Peyroux and Mimi Parker with goose down and a sprinkling of fine sand and you’ve got the Emma Frank voice, which is more of a conveyance than a strictly beautiful timbre, but it is the perfect vehicle for a collection of music that you want to hear again as soon as you’ve heard it once. Instead of shying away from using her voice in the upper range where it is a tad thin, she incorporates it into her songs where vulnerability is at issue. Only 26, Emma Frank has already learned to stay within herself such that her voice effortlessly corresponds to what her inner visions require for their highly particularized form and expression, just as her extensive training in music allows her to landscape her soundscapes that can turn a simple walk in a park into a journey through an exotic rain forest.

Emma Frank and her team shouldn't be concerned that her CD isn't billboard friendly. In its uplift, grace and superb coherence we discover in her music that the genre and singer are one and the same. Since her material doesn't lend itself to radio play, she wisely plans to spend significant time (both in Montreal and abroad) performing in small to medium sized venues in order to earn the recognition she already justly deserves.

If at the end of hard day's night the world seems too much with us and we want to get beyond the fray, Emma Frank's For Being Apart promises to fit like a velvet glove, and travel us far on the wings of a dove.

Photos © Hanna Donato



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