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Four Songbirds (Part 2)

I covered Blossom Dearie and Stacey Kent with my post yesterday. Today I'm featuring two chanteuses who bring to mind the two greatest female jazz vocalists of all time, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. peyroux_sara-g.jpg A Georgia native, Madeleine Peyroux spent a decade living in France from ages 13-22, at which point she released the stunning Dreamland, then after a six-year hiatus, followed up with two even better albums, Careless Love and Half the Perfect World. At first listen one can't help but think of Billie Holiday, but it's instantly clear Peyroux is no mere mimic. Whether born with the touch or simply and old soul, she inhabits completely the songs she sings. Whether covering standards, blues, jazz or contemporary tunes, she weaves through understated arrangements that together create a mood and world all her own. Skipping just a couple tracks, I've found myself taking in all three of her albums randomly and straight through. Her style is so complete and fully realized, all the songs wash over you seamlessly, and one begins to think the world is wholly perfect. You can hear Sara Gazarek's smile when she sings. A student of music and fan of Ella Fitzgerald, she can swing, scat, then smoothly sing a ballad (as with Billy Joel's And So It Goes) that will just about bring you to tears. With perfect phrasing while loose and in the pocket, she covers classic tunes in her own style, then surprises you with a wonderful arrangement, merging in a medley Bye Bye Blackbird with McCartney's Blackbird. Though she and her superb twenty-something band have a healthy respect for the best of the best, half the songs on her albums are fine originals, most written and arranged by talented young pianist Josh Nelson. I had the pleasure of seeing the band here in Minneapolis in the Summer of '07, and both sets were impressive. See them live if you get the chance, or check out either of their studio albums, Yours and Return To You. With all the buzz over some new young female jazz singers the last few years, it sounds to me like Sara G. is the one to watch.

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