Friday, April 15, 2011

Phoebe Legere - Ooh La La Coq Tail


Phoebe Legere - Ooh La La Coq Tail
2010, Mysterious Ways / ESP Disk

Rule #1 - never start a review with the statement "there's no one quite like....".  The first thing that will happen is you'll get thirty or forty e-mails, usually from a small group of a dozen or so Google-happy music buffs who live for refuting such statements.  Besides, it's trite and overdone.  That being said, there is quite literally, no one like Phoebe Legere.  One of the most original jazz pianists of generation, Legere has never stood still long enough to be classified definitively.  A classically trained pianist who fell in love with jazz, Legere studied at the New England Conservatory in high school.  Her four-octave voice also led her to sing with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at the age of sixteen.  Signed by EPIC records as a teenager, Legere has gone to build a significant catalog of work in jazz and electronic music.  The Pulitzer-Prize nominated composer gets back to her roots on Ooh La La Coq Tail, blending French Musette, Jazz, Pop and Baroque Chamber styles in a whirlwind of class and charm.

Ooh La La Coq Tail opens with "Que Rest T'Il De Nos Amours?” a healthy dose of French cabaret jazz.  Legere's low-key, nuanced arrangement sidles up next to you and gathers your attention with a warmth and sensuality that's intriguing.  Legere's beautifully clear voice is the perfect complement and spoil to the arrangement.  "I Love Myself When I'm With You" features Legere in a duet with George Leonard.  His Steve Lawrence-inspired talk/sing style is a perfect complement to Legere's vocal glamour in a number that sounds like it was spawned from a 1940's movie musical.  "Under Paris Skies" features Legere in a stunning vocal performance in the chanson style.  Legere's voice is full of intricate tones and textures, providing a spine-tingling 'wow' moment. 

Legere starts out "Prelude To A Kiss" in a breathy, forced alto below her comfortable range.  Once she breaks out into her upper register you'll forget the slight detour, but the opening isn't a great reflection of what Legere can do.  "Sometimes It Snows In Las Vegas" is a piano-driven pop/jazz number.  Legere handles it with aplomb.  Legere launches herself into "Hot Sicilian Pizza Boy" with an enthusiasm and wit that is simply stunning.  It's an entertaining turn, and gives listeners a glimpse of the pure magnetism Legere communicates on stage.  "Sex Is Love" explores differences in perspective on the world's favorite past time.  This is great songwriting, plain and simple.

Legere offers up "Nancy", a love song with surprisingly uncertain pacing.  It's not a bad song, but something just doesn't go right in the dynamic built here.  Legere recovers nicely on "Playing Me Like A Piano", an innuendo-laden jazz ballad that Legere makes even better with her voice.  "Just One Of Those Things" is presented in French as an up-tempo number.  Legere instills the song with verve and a sense of class that's unmistakable.  Ooh La La Coq Tail closes a solid rendition of "Paris Je T'Aime" and a lovely piano instrumental entitled "Earth Singing World".  Here Legere blends styles and substance in expansive piano passages that display her subtle style, extreme melodicism and sense of freedom on the piano.

Phoebe Legere is a treasure; a name touted by musical cognoscenti but often not recognized for her talents outside of a core group of fans and music professionals.  While artists such as Diana Krall and Norah Jones have earned raves and racked up millions in album sales for pop-influenced jazz numbers with strong connections to the American songbook, Legere continues to challenge boundaries and classification every time she sits at the piano.  Ooh La La Coq Tail has a couple of quiet moments, but Legere consistently provides excellence in both her compositions and performance.  This album is a definite keeper.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more about Phoebe Legere at http://www.phoebelegere.com/ or www.myspace.com/sexbrain Ooh La La Coq Tail is available digitally from Amazon.com and iTunes.