Music Reviews

Jazz a St. Germain

Various Artists

Higher Octave

Millennial dementia continues! As our century’s musical history screams past our dazed ears, we find that interest in swing is flagging, and now people are rediscovering… Gershwin?

Gershwin and more, as this flawless collection of ’40s and ’50s Paris nightclub jazz interpretations proves. Jazz a St. Germain opens with Angelique Kidjo’s refreshing rendition of “Summertime,” with African-styled vocal harmonies and a slow, Portishead feel; this could be the high point of any album, but despite the track’s completely original treatment it’s a standard that is matched quite frequently throughout this record. The subsequent “Les Joyeux Bouchers” (by Catherine Ringer and the Renegade Brass Band) is what happens when you stuff a marching band and a cabaret singer into the same closet. Iggy Pop and Françoise Hardy duet in “I’ll Be Seeing You,” a song whose summery feel sounds completely incongruous when you think of the Iggster stripping to his skivvies and diving into a crowd.

Jazz a St. Germain comes close to perfect, by selecting an interesting collection of material and then transforming and updating it into something that clearly displays the vibrancy of this music. Other “tribute” albums would try to slap on a high-gloss coat of ’90s polyurethane on this richly veneered catalog, but Higher Octave seems to have given these artists the opportunity to soulfully reinterpret these tracks from the inside out. Some remain completely traditional, others are clearly at home in this digital age, but without exception, every single one is worth hearing and stands out as a pivotal moment for its recording artists. Educational and completely necessary. Higher Octave Music, 23852 Pacific Coast Highway, Suite 2C, Malibu, CA 90265; http://www.higheroctave.com


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