Miriam Waks

Camelot Lounge, December 3

Miriam res
Miriam Waks. Photo supplied.

Before singing Non, je ne regrette rien Miriam Waks told us she was in Paris at the time of the recent mass murders, and offered the song as her response. This simple, understated and heartfelt declaration of intent was a prelude to a truly stunning rendition. Too often this classic is a vehicle for powerhouse vocal grandstanding or pointless Piaf impersonations, but Waks made the emotional impact real because it came from a core of steely resolve, and had a slow-burn build to its intensity.

Most artists experience a tussle between exploring options, zeroing in on strengths, and addressing weaknesses. Waks is currently – and to some extent commendably – having a go at everything: classics from the jazz, Gypsy, blues, soul, Sephardic, tango, chanson and Chinese repertoires, sung in multiple languages. We can safely say the exploration box has been ticked.

For Non, je ne regrette rien she was joined by the preeminent cellist Nathan Waks (her uncle), whose opening statement of the theme would have been enough to make all the statues in Notre Dame begin to bleed. He also featured on another highlight, the tango Naranjo en flor, where Miriam unleashed an almost primal fervour.

With other peaks being the traditional Ladino Si Veriash and the Gypsy Zvonija, Zvonija, it was clear that material with an innate drama best suited Waks, while she was prone to being overwrought – sometimes even screechy – on the jazz, blues and soul material. Were she to abandon all thoughts of impressing people with her range and versatility, and to concentrate on being true to herself and the songs, her career could open like a flower, because her voice, itself, is potent, attractive and accurate, and she has natural charm.

The band to traverse all this territory was led by pianist Dan Holland, with bassist Hamish Gullick, Eddie Bronson’s tsunami-like tenor saxophone (plus soprano and accordion) and the drums/percussion brilliance of Jess Ciampa, who cooked up a groove for Zvonija, Zvonija that would make the dead dance.