Live reviews

Madeleine Peyroux + Omar Sosa/Yilian Cañizares at the 2019 Cheltenham Jazz Festival

Madeleine Peyroux Photo credit and © John Watson /
Madeleine Peyroux; Omar Sosa and Yilian Cañizares (Cheltenham Jazz Festival. 5 May. Review by Jon Turney) A quarter-century after her notable debut, Dreamland, Madeleine Peyroux retains her so-far-behind-the-beat-it’s-barely-legal phrasing, and a large following, who thronged Cheltenham’s slightly soulless big top on Sunday afternoon. The phrasing continues to serve most of the songs she chooses well. She still owns Leonard Cohen’s Dance Me To the End of Love, for instance, delivered as a kind of erotic lament. Otherwise, the proceedings are less stirring. The note-perfect delivery and droll intros all sound pretty effortless, and an anonymously efficient touring band adds to the impression the singer is coasting just now. A generally unemphatic inflection, and predominantly melancholic repertoire – alluded to jokily a few times in between songs, but not as a prelude to any light relief lyrically – can lead one tune to blur into the next. And, even allowing for the acoustically inhospitable plastic-clad cavern we shared, this set left the impression her voice is better served by the recording studio than a live show. Result, a perfectly OK gig if one wanted to tick the “seen her perform live” box, but not one that will linger long in the memory.
Omar Sosa and Yilian Cañizares Photo credit and © John Watson /
A half hour later in the jazz arena, quite a different story, with a stunning return for Cuban piano maestro Omar Sosa. He is touring with the remarkable Cuban-born singer and violinist Yilian Cañizares and percussionist Gustavo Ovales. Ovales and Sosa have performed in duo, but the trio with the younger Cañizares is something else. They still benefit from Sosa’s exuberant torrents of acoustic piano, with electric keyboards for colour, and the percussionist’s ability to conjure complex rhythms from the simplest objects. Cañizares’ inventive violin and rich voice, often used together, open the music out very appealingly. She and Sosa play, and dance, together in celebration their homeland, as they did on their recording Aguas. There were moments of melancholy, and Cañizares’ charisma is such that it’s impossible not to share whatever emotion she is projecting at the time, even though the songs are in Spanish or French. But by the close of the set this was definitely a party, with the entire audience on their feet and singing. All three players are artists I wish I’d discovered before, and now won’t forget. A fabulous performance, and exactly what festivals are for.

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