Shimmers and glimmers glisten from the grooves of jazz chanteuse Melody Gardot’s latest release, which finds the former Philadelphian pairing off with French-Brazilian pianist-composer Philippe Powell. Her languid yet precise vocals cascade the gradients of the soul, performing graceful pirouettes time and again, while his piano provides the lifts that allow her to reach greater heights. At times, it reminds me of Peggy Lee’s classic 1958 outing with George Shearing, Beauty and the Beat! Unlike on that album, however, the songs here are stripped to their essence—just voice and piano. It’s a magical, mesmerizing affair.
The album opens with “This Foolish Heart Could Love You,” in which Gardot confesses that her heart is easily wounded and cajoles a possible paramour not to lead her on: “Take care with all the words you tell me/Take care with what your eyes may seem to say…”
“What of Your Eyes” follows with the supporting evidence for her concern, as she recalls a lover who besotted her and then broke her heart. “Was I too bold to believe, to conceive in a future for you and I?” Several songs find Gardot musing in the language of her adopted home, France. “Plus Fort Que Nous” delves into the mystery of love, while “À La Tour Eiffel”—obvious from its title, I suppose—celebrates the Parisian monument to romance while conjuring Cole Porter’s classic “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” “Fleurs Du Dimanche,” meanwhile, finds Gardot explaining how she prefers to sleep past noon—and, no matter the reason why, she definitely doesn’t wish to be woken early on a Sunday morning.
The multilingual “Samba Em Prelúdio (Un Jour Sans Toi)” features Powell and Gardot trading vocals in both Portuguese and French; their voices blend together very well. It, too, focuses on love and heartbreak. “Perhaps You’ll Wonder Why” flips the script, however, with Gardot the one who’s left another, while sharing an insight that speaks to more than matters of the heart: “Every now and then we see that even seasons end/But of their endings bring the dawning of the new.” The instrumental “Recitativo” follows; the notes hang in the air like an early morning mist. It’s quite cool.
The beat-like poem “Ode to Every Man” features sparse accompaniment from Powell; Gardot reaches deep within the corners of her mind while exploring love past and love absent, and admits, “Sadness has become/The inner workings of the mechanism/That is my barely beating heart.” It’s quite compelling. “Darling Fare Thee Well” delves again into heartbreak, this time through no one’s fault per se, just the dulling of one’s feelings for the other. Like the album as a whole, it’s a minimalistic gem.
The track list: