The end of one chapter means the beginning of another. Like all the best cliffhangers, Cyrille Aimée Live leaves the audience wanting more…but also eager to discover what comes next. Recorded at a typically lively and engaging performance at New York City’s (Le) Poisson Rouge in August 2017, the album finds the acclaimed vocalist bidding a fond adieu to her long-standing band and looking forward to a brand-new phase in her life and career. The August performance marked the band’s final show together, saying goodbye to this configuration of Aimée’s band while welcoming a new chapter of creative output.
As anyone who has followed her work over the last decade can hear, Aimée thrives on living in the moment. Nowhere is that more evident than on stage; throughout Cyrille Aimée Live (due out June 22 via Mack Avenue Records) she holds the audience in the palm of her hand. Rapt during quiet moments, raucous as the spirited band swings into high gear, roaring with laughter at Aimée’s charming and quirky banter, or singing along with a Michael Jackson medley, the crowd is an essential part of the buoyant show.
The concert captured here marks the end of an era, but the tone is celebratory, not bittersweet. Aimée’s tight-knit band – guitarists Adrien Moignard and Michael Valeanu, bassist Dylan Shamat, and drummer Dani Danor – share as warm and playful an energy as ever. This group of musicians is so close that they once missed a flight as they sat at the gate, so engaged in catching up after a mere two weeks apart that all five remained completely oblivious to the boarding process and departure!
But Aimée, restlessly creative and an inveterate improviser – in her life as in her music – is anxiously looking forward to new opportunities, new sounds, and even a new home. Born in France and long based in Brooklyn, the free-spirited singer recently relocated again, this time to New Orleans, an intriguing prospect not only for her all-embracing approach to music but for its cultural resonance with her French-Dominican heritage.
“I want to find new inspirations and a new energy,” Aimée says. “I feel like you always have to search further, and that’s what I constantly try to do.”
That questing spirit has already led Aimée on a staggering variety of adventures in her life, promising countless surprises to come. She’s ventured from singing on street corners in Europe to dazzling audiences at the world’s most prestigious jazz festivals; from sneaking out to sing in gypsy encampments in her native France to acting on Broadway; from singing Sondheim alongside Bernadette Peters to sharing her story in a TEDx talk; from braving the notoriously tough audiences at New York’s Apollo Theatre to being called a “rising star in the galaxy of jazz singers” by The New York Times.
Significantly, Thelonious Monk’s “Well You Needn’t,” with its refrain of “It’s over now,” comes not at the end of Cyrille Aimée Live but somewhere around the midpoint, prompting her to assure the audience, “It’s not over now. That’s just how the song goes.” It’s a significant promise as she winds down her time with the band with which she’s traveled the world and shared indelible experiences.
The set list for this special performance (one among a lifetime of special performances) captures the wide spectrum of Aimée’s eclectic tastes and talents. It opens, appropriately enough, with Peggy Lee’s “It’s A Good Day,” the title track from the singer’s 2014 Mack Avenue debut. The band’s utterly joyous rendition only amplifies the optimistic message of the song. Language barriers be damned, Aimée’s “Nuit Blanche” remains enchanting even for those who don’t understand a word of French. As she says when introducing Sidney Bechet’s lovely “Si Tu Vois Ma Mère,” “the rest is up to your imagination.”
With “Live Alone and Like It,” Aimée reprises her show-stealing performance from the 2013 Stephen Sondheim tribute concert she starred in with Bernadette Peters, backed by Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, at New York’s City Center. Her rendition is just as winning complemented by only four musicians as it was with the powerhouse ensemble.
On Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” Aimée becomes her own backing band, looping vocal percussion, bass lines and harmonies (with an enthusiastic assist from the (Le) Poisson Rouge crowd on handclaps and “yeah, yeahs”). The band reenters for a beguiling take on Jackson’s “Off The Wall,” which brings the heat down to a captivating simmer. “Day By Day” exemplifies the band’s finesse with gentle swing, while “Three Little Words” is taken at an unrelenting, breakneck pace that shows off why she originally wanted to call the band “Cyrille Aimée and the Guitar Heroes” (though Shamat and Danor turn in equally heroic feats).
“Each Day,” co-written by Aimée and Valeanu, brings the date to a poignant close. As the vigorous cheers of the live audience fade away, listeners to Cyrille Aimée Live are left to ponder what the future holds. Given the myriad of directions and styles the singer has embraced, her spirit of freedom, adventure, and exploration, it’s safe to say that anyone within earshot will be thrilled to follow wherever she leads.
About Cyrille Aimée
Improvisation is not just a technique for vocalist Cyrille Aimée, it’s a way of life – one that has not only allowed her to share her engaging voice and sparkling creativity with the world, but has led her on an unexpected journey. Growing up in the town of Samois-sur-Seine in France, Aimée would sneak out of her bedroom window to join the gypsy caravans gathered for the annual Django Reinhardt Festival. Those experiences exposed Aimée not just to the joys of gypsy jazz but to the gypsies’ spontaneous, nomadic, music-filled way of life, imbuing a spirit that has earned her accolades from the Montreux Jazz Festival Vocal Competition and the Sarah Vaughn International Jazz Vocal Competition. In 2014 Aimée made her major label debut with It’s A Good Day (Mack Avenue), featuring an innovative two-guitar band that returned for 2016’s highly acclaimed Let’s Get Lost. She shares her story with audiences and students alike, having been invited to present a TEDx talk and to address the Conference on World Affairs, and teaching master classes for aspiring musicians.