The Cabaret At the Columbia Club, March 23
If French singers run
a gamut from the socko intensity of Edith Piaf to the
whispered intimacies of Francoise Hardy, then Jil Aigrot has found a graceful balance between the two.
Aigrot, who is best known for having sung the Piaf part in the film La Vie en Rose, performed
what amounted to a survey of mid-20th Century French popular music
for a full house at the Cabaret last week, covering chansons made famous by
such iconic artists as Yves Montand, Charles Aznavour, Jacques Brel and Michel
It was a welcome reminder that the French
have a rich songbook of their own, comparable in many ways to its American
cousin. But while the American version relies heavily on jazz, the French
tradition has a more theatrical bent. That theatricality - coupled with the
expressive beauty of the French language - is more than enough to make up for
whatever might be lost in translation.
Aigrot, who was accompanied by a pianist and a second
musician who handled drums, an accordion and a xylophone, sang with a bell-like
effortlessness through the first set. If anything, she was laidback to a fault,
choosing to deliver a number of tunes from a sitting position. She brought a
greater edge to her second set, which was heavily
weighted towards Piaf. This time around, Aigrot was
on her feet and nailing every nuance with clarity and unsullied depth.