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Dispatches from Montreal (7): Melody Gardot at FIJM 2023

Melody Gardot

(Salle Wilfried-Pelletier. 2 July 2023. Review by Sebastian Scotney – with help*)

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Philippe Powell (L) and Melody Gardot. Photo credit: Frédérique Ménard-Aubin/ FIJM

Since a really thoughtful overnight review was being exquisitely crafted last night by the man in the next seat, I am going to take the lazy way out, borrow from it and translate it… (* Here is a LINK to Philippe Rezzonico’s full review for in French):

“Having seen her first concert [at FIJM] 15 years ago,” Rezzonico writes, “I would never have believed that this young singer, so discreet and secretive, would one day become so extrovert on stage.”

He’s absolutely right. The walking stick and the reticence have gone (the sunglasses remain), and Gardot’s assuredness in shaping and MC’ing a substantial show with a total of around 20 musicians on stage was remarkable. She tells good stories too.

The songwriting partnership with Philippe Powell, son of Brazilian music icon Baden Powell, has delivered some great results. “I think we nailed it,” she says. Her voice sounds great too. As Rezzonico puts it: “Her perfectly in-tune and often restrained vocals are the antithesis of the shrill singers who pollute the airwaves.”

The strings of the studio orchestra were from Montreal and very classy. The Brazilian percussionist whose name I missed (?) made a huge contribution all night.

I also loved saxophonist Irwin Hall. His is a CV you seriously couldn’t make up! “Irwin Hall got his start at the age of 9 when he won a lottery in school and was gifted an alto saxophone. By the age of 11 he was on stage performing professionally and began winning state and national competitions. Irwin attended Princeton University on a full ride to study East Asian philosophy. He learned Japanese and after graduating began work at a major Japanese newspaper in Tokyo. As fate would have it, he ran into songstress Melody Gardot backstage at the Tokyo Jazz Festival who heard him play and immediately hired him to tour with her band. He quit his job and went on back-to-back international tours as her featured soloist.

LINK: LJN’s coverage of Melody Gardot from Andrew Cartmel and John Bungey

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