Sophisticated Ladies – A True Story – quartet

by | Dec 4, 2012 | Jazz CD Reviews

Sophisticated Ladies – A True Story –, 33:15 ***1/2 : 
(Emilie Calmé – flute, bansuri, vocals; Rachael Magidson – vocals, Flugelhorn, percussion; Nolwenn Leizour — acoustic bass, vocals; Valerie Chane-tef — piano, vocals)
A really good jazz sound has come out of France and it’s called The Sophisticated Ladies.  The quartet has a great jazz sound with a twist.  Quoting from their website “The Sophisticated Ladies preserve the harmonic richness of the compositions of the early composers, all the while marrying the compositions with rhythms from North and South America, the Caribbean, and Africa which simply give one a desire to get up and dance”.
The quartet has gathered themselves together, bringing some very good talent together as a group.  They are diversified in their ability to weave the various rhythms and styles from several continents.  Rachael Magidson hails from San Francisco, California and was a swing singer in addition to playing Flugelhorn and percussion.  Nolwenn Leizour whose experience on bass is in Latin and jazz styles, and Emilie Calmé who is listed as a virtuoso on flute and heavily experienced in percussion in the genre Caribbean are from the southwest of France. The piano player Valerie Chane–tef is from the island La Réunion, an overseas department of France located in the Indian Ocean off Madagascar, Africa, who specializes in Afro-Cuban music.
The self produced album starts with a cover of “The Lady is a Tramp”.  Magidson does a really upbeat fast swinging vocal rendition of this.  What really caught my attention was the flute work of Emilie Calmé.  She brought forth in this song and throughout the album some really good jazz flute living up to her reputation of a virtuoso flautist.  During the second verse the quartet changes time signature slowing the swing with a prominent walking bass by Leizour.   The ladies give forth a nice performance of Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady.” (Could that be an anthem?).
I spent some time in France back in the 1960s.  I never really picked up the language well but it brought back memories listening to the vocals in French on “Autumn Leaves”.  Sung in French it painted a colorful Autumn scene in my imagination in the slow intro of the song remembering the cloudy skies and cool temperatures.  The Ladies suddenly kick it up and switch to a fast Latin tempo and it was outstanding with the percussion.  I loved hearing Calmé’s flute dancing in and out with the instruments.  Calmé shines again taking on Charlie Parker’s tune “Segment” playing in interpretation of Parker on saxophone.
Leizour solos on bass accompanied by Chane-tef on piano on Antonio Carlos Jobim’s beautiful song, “Insensatez” opening the first part of the song.  The music progresses to where Magidson joins on Flugelhorn for several bars to be joined then in harmony with Calmé on flute.
The album closes with “Dansez Sur Moi” with the composer credit given to Neal Hefti, and although the translation of the title I believe translates out as dance with me, the song is obviously a modification of  Hefti’s “Girl Talk” by the late great French jazz entrepreneur Claude Nougaro .  The samba rhythm is quick with The Ladies each taking a vocal solo in French to be joined on each chorus by the whole group harmonizing on the vocals.  Truly a delightful ending to the album.
A True Story is a fun album with good performers without a doubt.  The sound quality of the recording is good.  My only criticism is no real liner notes are included on the album itself.  You can go to on the Internet to learn more about them.  They are also on YouTube.
TrackList: 1. The Lady is a Tramp; 2. Sophisticated Lady; 3. Autumn Leaves; 4. You Go To My Head; 5. Segment; 6. Gone With The Wind; 7. Insensatez; 8. Dansez.
—Tim Taylor

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