It is never predictable how much an artist can develop for the better from one album to the next. There are simply too many variables and although most of these variables – openness, the ability to put on big ears to “listen” (not hear) what a musical narrative is telling him or her; the repertoire itself and so on can sometimes become a source for bemusement. But apparently all of this seems to have worked out magnificently for Kavita Shah, not the least because her very openness has made for a large infusion of magic to enter into the proverbial mix. And then there is the matter of her musical partner on this deep dive into the music in question: François Moutin a musician and contrabassist who plays with considerable daring and is joined at the hip with Miss Shah on Interplay.
A Jazz duo might not want to regard themselves as a pair of musicians like classical lied performers. But, as ever, there are no differences really. The intensity of involvement with what each other is doing, the development of characters in the course of their involvement of a particular narrative and the ability to be immersed in each other; invested in the theatrical and the emotional is key to the success and beauty of every performance. And here Miss Shah and Mr. Moutin can hold their own with “the very best of them”. Their performance won Interplay is hypnotic – and powerfully so.
It helps that Kavita Shah seems to have completely disengaged herself from her proverbial chrysalis and has adorned herself with fully-developed musical wings. On “You Go to My Head” she gives notice that she has become as huge and impossibly beautiful as melodic monarch butterfly, and on “Bliss” she is incredibly difficult to catch; on “Falling in Love with Love” she is equal to the challenging gauntlet thrown down by every vocalist’s mentor, the great Sheila Jordan; in fact on that song, and on “Peace” Miss Shah may have set the bar high for the two of them and done it all by herself. And on “Coming Yesterday” and “Aigue Marine” Miss Shah she takes the two torch songs and all but runs away from both Mr. Moutin and the author of the songs, the legendary Martial Solal.
For his part François Moutin is an equal participant in the creative process throughout this album. He is a sensational bassist with a larger-than-life tone and an approach to his instrument that varies from town-crier to marquee-painter. His playing is voluptuous and so, appropriately, he creates a landscape that is breathtakingly tactile. But he is also a brilliant accompanist who knows exactly when to step away from the spotlight and let it shine exclusively on his vocalist, and when to take that light and shine it upon himself. “Utopian Vision” and “Interplay” are two fine examples of this masterful ability.
There may be many recorded performances that exist in the library of music; some of them are already classics. All things considered, Kavita Shah and François Moutin’s Interplay is bound not only for that vaunted status, but is guaranteed to hold its own with the very best of them.
Track list – 1: You Go to My Head; 2: La Vie en Rose; 3: Coming Yesterday; 4: Bliss; 5: Falling in Love with Love; 6: Aigue Marine; 7: Blah Blah; 8: Utopian Vision; 9: Interplay; 10: The Provider’s Gone; 11: Peace
Personnel – Kavita Shah: voice and ukulele (10); François Moutin: contrabass; Martial Solal: piano (3, 6); Sheila Jordan: voice (5, 11)
Released – 2018
Label – Dot Time Records
Runtime – 54:23