While at the Detroit Jazz Fest over Labor Day weekend, I caught part of singer Cyrille Aimée’s set with the Hot Club of Detroit. Like the Hot Club, Aimée, a native of France, has immersed herself in the French gypsy jazz tradition of Django Reinhardt. But, also like the Hot Club boys, she doesn’t make that tradition the be-all and end-all of her musical character.
In fact, it’s rather difficult to pin Aimée down in one particular genre of jazz. A deep cabaret influence is evident in her singing. But just as you have her painted in the crisp noir shadows of a 1920’s European club, she slips—perhaps even before completing a phrase—into skillful scat, harmonic play or bluesy growling that melds her by turns with Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn and Nina Simone. But those are just names that come immediately to mind. For all the (somewhat elusive) influences percolating on the surface of her singing, Aimée never comes across as anything but herself—a well-steeped, but singular voice. And when, alone, she puts together one of her rhythmically, harmonically rich loop-pedal vocal constructions in real-time, before your very ears, you know you’re in the presence of a unique stylist.
Fortunately for us Clevelanders, Aimée will be performing here at the end of the month. Tuesday, Sept. 27, at 7 p.m. at Nighttown, to be exact, along with Brazilian guitarist Diego Figueiredo, who, reportedly, is a buddy of the Cavs’ Anderson Varejão. Aimée and Figueiredo have recorded a pair of albums together, Smile in 2009 and Just the Two of Us a year later. Aimée’s singing is relaxed on the records, snuggling up to Figueiredo’s acoustic guitar. And, yes, the music recalls Jobim’s in spots (especially when they happen to be covering a Jobim tune), but, again, the music moves beyond the circle of any easily gleaned influence. I’m really looking forward to seeing the pair perform live.