Grange Festival S24 French Salon v8 RGB Master

The Making Of 'A French Salon' ~ With Piers Playfair

Why the French connection?

I have always admired the French Song Book’s story-telling qualities and melodies having studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and having grown up with this music on the radio in the ‘60s. As I became more involved learning about the roots of jazz, I was fascinated with exploring the cross-cultural synergies and influences of the French Song Book with the American jazz. For example, the French classical composer Maurice Ravel, whose Piano Concerto in G will be featured this summer, spent a significant amount of time touring and composing in the US and was heavily influenced by American jazz music.

When did you meet Cecile and tell us about her history singing French repertoire?

I first met Cécile at one of our 2012 summer jazz residencies in Upstate New York. She was only 22 and relatively unknown in the jazz world but had stormed the scene by winning the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, the top competition for jazz vocalists. She was a natural on and off stage. She was just breath-taking, performing in duets with jazz legend Marcus Roberts and recent Cole Porter Piano Fellow Aaron Diehl as part of a show called Jellie and George. There was no doubt even then that she was going to be the next big thing in jazz.

Cécile’s career did indeed skyrocket and she has since won 3 GRAMMY® awards. Over the years I have had the privilege to work with her on numerous projects and have always enjoyed her performances, but it was back in 2016 at the New York Hot Jazz Festival) when I first heard her sing in French. Her voice, accent and diction were mesmerising and her storytelling outstanding which I guess is not surprising as her mother is from France. In recent years Cécile has been performing more and more in French and her most recent album Mélusine is primarily sung in French. As these interests and projects coincided, she was perfect (maybe only!) choice to be the vocalist for this project and I am so honoured she agreed to be part of the evening.


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