Cyrille Aimee


(Mack Avenue/Planet)


The wonder is that it has not been done more often. Precious few songwriters across the last 60 years hold a candle to Stephen Sondheim, yet jazz musicians have largely shied from engaging with his material. In 1995 came a worthy attempt called Jazz Sketches on Sondheim, from artists including Herbie Hancock, Jim Hall, Nancy Wilson and Holly Cole. Now the French singer Cyrille Aimee throws open the door on how to express Sondheim’s word-driven songs in the language of jazz, without sacrificing the lyrics’ intelligence, wit, perspicacity, and character-defining qualities.

The vital ingredient is Aimee’s playfulness. She dances across the words with perfect diction and a lightness that allows any poignancy to surface organically, rather than being laboured. Nor is this a “greatest hits” collection, but one including some rare early songs, alongside the likes of Marry Me a Little, Not While I’m Around and an energised Being Alive riding on a Latin groove. A large pool of musicians realise arrangements devised by Aimee and pianist Assaf Gleizner. Although each song has its own sound world, they are bound together by the commonalities of Aimee’s fizzing singing and Sondheim’s genius