Cyrille Aimée at Jazz at the Lesher, “Music that Makes People Feel Something”

Saturday evening Becky and I went out for some wonderful Vietnamese food in Walnut Creek, and then we headed over to the Lesher Center to hear Cyrille Aimée  and her band: guitarists Adrien Moignard and Michael Valeanu, Dylan Shamat on acoustic bass and Dani Danor on drums. If you live anywhere near Walnut Creek, CA and you like jazz, you shouldn’t miss these performances each night in August. We’ve been season subscribers since 2012 when they started the jazz series, and we look forward to them every year.

This was my first opportunity to hear Aimée and her band live or recorded. She is a French-Dominican gypsy jazz vocalist who sings what she wants, and I’m thankful for that. The reason I mention this is because she auditioned for the French version of American Idol and became a finalist. When informed she would have to sing only what she was told, she rebelled and walked away from the competition. She’s gone on to make it to the finals of the 2010 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocal Competition, and she won the inaugural Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition. She now happily tours the world with her band. As she says, “I just like good jazz, Latin jazz, whatever — I just like music that makes people feel something.”

She has a singing style that is nearly perfect to sing Sondheim’s lyrics. I thought her performance his  “Live Alone And Like It” was the best number of the night. The song is an ode to singles from Stephen Sondheim’s Encore Series at New York’s City Center in 2013. He wanted Cyrille Aimée to sing this particular song, and it is easy to see why. My other favorite of the evening was when she sang Thelonious Monk’s composition “Well, You Needn’t.” Her phrasing brought both humor and sorrow to this number.

I would be amiss if I didn’t mention the simply wonderful performances by her two guitarists, Adrien Moignard and Michael Valeanu. Their playing was far above what I’m used to hearing at most jazz performances. They both played with beautiful warm tones and still with quick and rhythmic fingering. They were simply amazing.

Becky and I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and the buzz in the hall after the concert told me that most everyone else did too. Thanks, to the people at the Lesher Center for the Arts for such a treat each August. Next Saturday night we get to hear Monty Alexander and his trio. I can’t wait!