Madeline Peyroux sounds like Billie Holiday, but in all the right ways. Peyroux’s singing is a genuine derivation, though, like a grandchild cherishing the meanings found in a box of long-lost vocal mementos. She has her influences and isn’t afraid to hide them.
“Careless Love” follows Peyroux’s debut by eight years, which is unusual in these days of intense marketing strategies for female jazz vocalists. Far from leading the tragic-romantic life of Holiday, though, it appears Peyroux, who was singing professionally at 15 in Europe, far from her home in Georgia, is more interested in the music than a career. The strength of both these works, though, should ensure her next release is not far off.
On “Careless Love,” Peyroux’s acoustic guitar strums confidently over the jazz quartet of soulful New York musicians. Her unique phrasing and intonation assert themselves with both pop and jazz sensibilities. Whether on old blues, jazz nuggets or covers of Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan tunes, Peyroux’s voice feels anchored deep in the emotional care of the song.
It’s easy to dismiss a singer who performs so close to an idol, but rather than copying, Peyroux draws energy from the tradition of Holiday’s singing. Peyroux’s strong release shows that jazz vocalists can pull exciting and fresh creations out of the past.
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