MADELEINE PEYROUX: the epitome of jazz class.

MADELEINE PEYROUX: the epitome of jazz class.

by Norman Warwick

Madeleine Peyroux (left, born April 18, 1974) is an American jazz singer and songwriter who began her career as a teenager on the streets of Paris. She sang vintage jazz and blues songs before finding mainstream success in 2004 when her album Careless Love sold half a million copies.

A native of Athens, Georgia, she grew up in New York and California. In interviews, she has called her parents ´hippies´ and ´eccentric educators` who helped her pursue a career in music. As a child, she listened to her father’s old records and learned to play her mother’s ukulele.

When she was thirteen, her parents divorced, and she moved with her mother to Paris. Two years later she began singing with street musicians in the Latin Quarter. She joined a vintage jazz group called the Riverboat Shufflers, then The Lost Wandering Blues and Jazz Band, with whom she toured Europe.

Peyroux was discovered by a talent agent from Atlantic Records, which released her debut album, Dreamland (1996). She recorded cover versions of songs from the 1930s and ’40s (Billie HolidayBessie SmithFats Waller, right) with a group of seasoned musicians: James CarterCyrus ChestnutLeon ParkerVernon Reid, and Marc Ribot. A year later she covered the song Life is Fine for a Rainer Ptacek tribute album.

In 2004 she released the EP Got You On My Mind with William Galison. Her second full-length album, Careless Love, was released by Rounder Records and produced by Larry Klein. Careless Love was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) after having sold half a million copies. It included songs by musicians such as Bob Dylan (left) and Hank Williams

Klein produced her next album, Half The Perfect World, which was recorded with Jesse Harris, k.d. lang, (right) and Walter Becker. Half The Perfect World reached No. 33 on the Billboard magazine Top 200 albums chart. Klein and Becker returned to work with Peyroux on her album Bare Bones (Rounder, 2009). She wrote all the songs on the album, co-writing some with Klein and Becker and Julian Coryell. Two years later, Standing On The Rooftop was released by Decca Records, produced by Craig Street, and recorded with Christopher Bruce, Charley DraytonMeshell Ndegeocello, Marc Ribot,] Jenny Scheinman, and Allen Toussaint.

In 2006, she performed a live session at Abbey Road Studios in England which was released on the album Live From Abbey Road. During the next year she won Best International Jazz Artist at the BBC Jazz Awards.

n 2013 a New York Times music writer compared her vocal style to that of Billie HolidayElla Fitzgerald, and Edith Piaf. Her song A Prayer appeared in the television show Deadwood (2005), and her version of J’ai deux amours was included in the film Diplomacy (2014).

Tony Ozuna (left) is an American (from California), living in Europe since the early 1990s. At that time he worked as editor-in-chief and co-founder of Yazzyk Magazine, an English language literary and arts publication which focused on contemporary Czech fiction and poetry in translation. He studied Politics with an emphasis on Public Policy for an M.A. at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), and after finishing that program he worked as an academic researcher for the California Policy Seminar (UC Berkeley) and research assistant at UCSB for a project on Mass Media and Hispanic Politics. He earned his B.A. degree in Politics from the University of California, Irvine. He joined the faculty of Anglo-American University in 1995 and then began working in administration in 1998 as Co-ordinator of the School of Humanities. His teaching experience also includes Academic Writing for Ph.D. students at CERGE-EI, the Center for Economic Research & Graduate Education, of Charles University. He is currently Associate Dean of the School of Humanities & Social Sciences, and Associate Dean of the School of Journalism (Media & Communications).

As well, Tony Ozuna has been a writer over the years for a number of Prague-based publications including Umelec International, an arts magazine which published in four languages (Czech, English, German, and Spanish), the defunct Prague Post, and the New Presence, a Prague-based political quarterly on Central European affairs, contributing essays and articles on art, music and politics. Presently, he is a regular contributor to Jazz in Europe, and occasionally to Hospodářské noviny.

Writing for Jazz In Europe earlier this year, he reminded us that when Madeleine Peyroux made her debut on the album Dreamland (in 1996), she began it with Patsy Cline’s Walkin’ After Midnight. Her voice is much more country on that track and even the group is not too noticeably a jazz unit, though it does include James Carter on saxophones and bass clarinet, Marcus Printep on trumpet, Regina Carter on violin, Cyrus Chestnut on piano, Leon Parker and Kenny Wolleson on drums and percussion, with even Vernon Reid and Marc Ribot on guitars. But on the rest of that recording she traverses with more finesse the blues (influenced most of all by Billie Holiday and Bessie Smith), French chansons (Edith Piaf) and good-old-gospel, and foremost jazz to give full opportunity for her stellar group to introduce her as a new and rising jazz-pop vocalist.

Fast-forward to The Blue Room (2012) and her voice has undergone a matured, soulful transformation, though again beginning with a Country-Western song. It’s Hank Williams’ Take These Chains from My Heart. But this one was also covered by Ray Charles in a far-out soulful version, and Peyroux’s Blue Room is actually a tribute to Ray Charles’ 1962 album Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music including songs made most popular by him like Born To Lose and I Can’t Stop Loving You. The studio band has less jazz heavyweights than on her debut, but with Larry Goldings on Hammond B-3 organ, her voice with a slowed-down deeply melancholic and lounge-soul jazz accompanying her is at its peak. Madeleine Peyroux (born 1974 in Georgia), raised partly in Brooklyn, and in California and Paris, France, has by this point become a veteran chanteuse.

Sandwiched neatly between these two albums was Careless Love (2004, left), which opens with Leonard Cohen’s Dance Me To the End of Love, (of which my song-wrting partner, Colin Lever, has recently delivered a cover on facebook,) Peyroux´s version (and Col´s) is more upbeat, and this album produced by Larry Klein is considered the breakthrough achievement sales-wise and artistically for Peyroux. Careless Love is again almost all covers including You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go, Bob Dylan, and J’ai Deux Amours a French classic by Josephine Baker.

Madeline Peyroux says she began her singing career on the streets of Paris as a dreamy busker (at the age of sixteen), and she is harking back to that era most of all on her upcoming European tour, Careless Love Forever, to mark the deluxe reissue on August 27th of Careless Love on three LPs, two CDs, and in a digital version.

Selected concerts in Europe & UK below

October 28, Thursday—Lucerna Ballroom (Strings of Autumn Festival), Prague,

November 4, Thursday—Palau de la Musica Catalana, Barcelona,

November 9, Tuesday—Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland

November 16, Tuesday—London Palladium, London, UK

November 23, Tuesday—Het Depot, Leuven, Belgium

November 28, Sunday—Tivoli Vredenburg, Utrecht, Netherlands

The prime source for this article was a piece written by Tony Ozuna, for Jazz Times

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