The celebrated New Orleans Jazz Orchestra examines the profound relationship of its hometown to the nation of France with its November 5th release of Petite Fleur on Storyville Records. The second album under the artistic directorship of drummer Adonis Rose features ten songs, nine of them standards associated with French and New Orleans musicians. The tenth tune is an original by Cyrille Aimée, the acclaimed jazz vocalist who was born and raised in France but now lives and works in The Big Easy itself. Aimée is the NOJO’s collaborator and vocalist on the album.
It was the singer who initiated the collaboration, telling Rose that she would like to work with the 18-piece big band and asking if he had any ideas for a project. “I said, ‘Well, okay, musically, how can I tell a story here?’” Rose recalls. “I thought about the long, shared history of those two places, and that became the concept. A narrative about the musical relationship between New Orleans and France.”
The title tune, a standard by early jazz clarinet legend Sidney Bechet, epitomizes the concept: A composition by a New Orleans artist living in France, performed by a New Orleans band with a French vocalist. Composers from both sides of the Atlantic, from Michel Legrand to Jelly Roll Morton, get similar treatment. So do various New Orleanian styles, from a stomp (“Get the Bucket”) to a second line (“Down”) to Fats Domino-style rock ’n’ roll (“I Don’t Hurt Anymore”).
In addition to being its spotlight vocalist, Aimée is also Petite Fleur’s featured soloist, applying her razor-sharp scat singing to “In the Land of Beginning Again,” “On a Clear Day,” and “Undecided.” She is in good company, with superlative instrumental improvisations from soprano saxophonist Ricardo Pascal (“Petite Fleur”), tenor saxophonist Ed Peterson (“Get the Bucket”), and, on Aimée’s “Down,” a fierce trumpet duel between Ashlin Parker and John Michael Bradford. However, it’s really the orchestra itself—as well as the parallel lands of New Orleans and France—that earns top billing alongside Aimée. Improvisation is not just a technique for Grammy nominated artist Cyrille Aimée, it’s a way of life. The acclaimed vocalist ventured from singing on street corners in Europe to dazzling audiences at the world’s most prestigious jazz festivals; from sneaking out to sing in gypsy encampments in her native France to acting on Broadway; from braving the notoriously tough audiences at New York’s Apollo Theatre to being called a “rising star in the galaxy of jazz singers” by The New York Times.
1. Petite Fleur 2. What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life 3. Si Tu Savais 4. I Don’t Hurt Anymore 5. In The Land of Beginning Again 6. Crazy He Calls Me 7. On a Clear Day 8. Get the Bucket 9. Undecided 10. Down
This is a lively, well-crafted album, highlighting the best of a versatile, engaging vocalist bringing out the best in the big band, and allowing enough space for vigorous soloing as well. – Jim Hynes, Making A Scene
In this version, Petite Fleur is one of the best and most heartfelt pieces of music I have heard to date with abig band and singer. – *****, Ivan Rod