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La princesse et les croque-notes

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Album Review

Parisian based singer Melanie Dahan, 29 at this time of this, her debut recording, has studied with Sara Lazarus and Michelle Hendriks, displays an affinity for French lyricists like Bernard Dimey and Charles Aznavour, and exploits the innocent side of jazz without going strictly into ballad or romantic territory. Her tunes, sung exclusively in French, tell various tales of life and love, but also are somewhat self-deprecating, at times silly, ironic, or humorous. She is expertly accompanied by a trio led by the wondrous Giovanni Mirabassi, a staunch modernist who shades the songs with light or bright (no grays or in-between) colors, modal-to-contemporary classical elements, and at times jazz swing. Dahan possesses a sweet altissimo voice that is neither seductive nor siren-like. She enjoys being a girl during the playful 5/4 beats of "L'Enfant Maquille" where she speaks of enjoying make-up, or the title track referring to her love for shoes. Her artistic side comes through during "Rimes/Rhymes" alongside Mirabassi's dancing waltz steps, or the very slow ballad "Les Poetes," decelerated to a crawl with the pianist keeping a tortured but brilliant song in rein. Fans of Aznavour will recognize "Je Hais Les Dimanches" in a tick-tock beat as the singer exclaims her disdain for Sunday, while the Harlem stride flavored "Je Me Suis Fait Tout Petit," roughly translated as "I Make Myself Small" is a fun, one-minute, bouncy based scat, and "Le Petit Bal Perdu," or "Go to the Last Dance" is the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, a dour 3/4 waltz with Mirabassi's piano bringing the mood far down. Dimey's lyrics are best heard during "La Salle Et La Terrasse," another of many waltzes, this time enlivened by Mirabassi's modal, McCoy Tyner-styled "My Favorite Things" type piano chords, while "La Mer A Boire" is not so much cute as the other tunes, but expresses that Dahan can be difficult and high maintenance. The cool alto saxophonist Pierrick Pedron is included on the easygoing "A Bicyclette" and the skipping waltz "J'Aimerais Tant Savoir." Those who do not speak or understand the French language will not relate to these selections, but those who do can gain appreciation for French popular singing from this young chanteuse who is learning the ropes, and offers her own modern perspective within traditional means. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

La princesse et les croque-notes, Mélanie Dahan
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