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Fleur Seule: Standards and Sweet Things

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Fleur Seule: Standards and Sweet Things

There ought never to be a deprecating appreciating of a recording that presents standards in a straight-forward, relatively unadorned and somewhat retro manner. ‘Retro’ has come to be equated with something that has and ought to have been left behind. But Fleur Seule who present a collection of emotionally – even sentimentally delivered – songs from another era in a ‘period’ setting, with ‘period’ arrangements complete with three-voice harmony makes this particularly alluring. For one it is an opportunity to admire artfully written songs from that era, performed in a kind of ‘jazz-age’ presentation.

However, more than anything else, the real treat group is the group’s alluring bandleader and lead vocalist. Allyson Briggs is a gorgeously sweet and agile soprano. Moreover she is perfectly matched by the silken tenor (the arrangements) of trumpeter Andy Warren. Miss Briggs’ renditions of these standards are also borne aloft on pianist Jason Yeager’s delicate and shimmering pianism and – in the interminably emotive version of “Tenderly – by the profoundly-beautiful con arco performance of bassist Michael O’Brien. Miss Briggs’ instrument is lustrous and precise. Her enunciation is superb and with phases which end in a feather-light vibrato, her allure is irresistible. All praise to her also for being able to lead this ensemble from the front.

The mood here flips between lyric, sexy, ruminative, teasing and dramatic so there is plenty in these 16 tracks to delight the novice and the connoisseurs alike. “Misty” is (for me) one of the high points of this disc (the other is “S’Wonderful”), but I suspect that others might fight each other and me as well with favourites of their own. But I would yield immediately to a challenger; there is, after all, much to like here. The sound of this recording is warm and intimate, and is detailed enough to bring crisp clarity to the superb brush-work of drummer Paul Francis as well.

Miss Briggs also sings creditably in Spanish (listen to “Con Los Años que me Quedan”) and French (“La Vie en Rose”), and even if she is singing ‘phœnetically’, that aspect is hardly discernable. I also suspect that this performance would have been better-served by a DVD. But perhaps that would be wishful thinking on my part…

Track list – 1: Taking a Chance on Love; 2: Piel Canela; 3: I Only Have Eyes for You; 4: Zou BIsou Bisou; 5: Sabor a mí; 6: Then There Eyes; 7: Tenderly; 8: Manuelo; 9: Misty; 10: Shoo-Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy; 11: Con Los Años que me Quedan; 12: Almost Like Being in Love; 13: La Vie en Rose; 14: Sweet Happy Life; 15: Embraceable You; 16: S’Wonderful

Personnel – The Fleur Seule Band is – Allyson Briggs: vocals and bandleader; Andy Warren: trumpet, arranger and musical director; Jason Yeager: piano; Michael O’Brien: bass; Paul Francis: drums; Richard Miller: guitar; Ivan Llanes: percussion; Martina DaSilva, Vanessa Perea and Marg Davis: backing vocals

Released – 2019
Label – Independent
Runtime – 1:02:48

Based in Canada, Raul da Gama is a Canadian poet, musician and accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically. Raul studied music at Trinity College of Music, London and has read the classics, lived and worked in three continents and believes that there is a common thread running through every culture on earth. It is this unifying aspect of humanity that occupies his thoughts each day as he continues to write poetry and critique music. His last book was The Unfinished Score: The Complete Works of Charles Mingus, a book that relocated the life and works of the great American composer and bassist, Charles Mingus, to the landscape of poetry. He is currently at work on a poem of some length.

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