Madeleine Peyroux: Instead




Madeleine Peyroux (vocals, acoustic guitar)


Bare Bones (Rounder 3272)

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Madeleine Peyroux (vocals, acoustic guitar), Vinnie Colaiuta (drums), Jim Beard (piano),

Larry Klein (bass, percussion, Estey), Dean Parks (electric guitar)


Composed by J. Coryell and Madeleine Peyroux


Recorded: Hollywood & Santa Monica, no date given (CD released in 2009)


Rating: 87/100 (learn more)

The knock on Madeleine Peyroux is that she just imitates Billie Holiday. But that's not fair. For one thing, Billie Holiday had a much more modern sounding rhythm section back in 1937. Peyroux's on-the-beat guitar strumming here, matched by the respectful chug-uh-lug of the rest of the band, might have been cutting edge during the Coolidge administration, but is more retro than retro these days. Yet if you checked out some of the other tracks on this CD, you would think you had stumbled into a Steely Dan session by mistake.

As you may have already guessed by now, if you want to enjoy this music, you best be advised to forget your jazz bearings. The jazz elements here are just for show and, like the backdrops on a movie set, you shouldn't expect them to be up to code. Peyroux has bigger aims in sight than pleasing finicky folks like me. She wants to be a major pop diva, in the spirit of other artists produced by Larry Klein (Joni Mitchell, Tracy Chapman). And she just might pull it off. Heck, she's halfway there already, having shown up in TV ad campaigns for both Dockers and Old Navy. I am rooting for Peyroux to make the most of this crossover success. She has a sweet, informal way of phrasing, and infuses her personality into every line she delivers. Yes, you can hear hints of Lady Day, but they are just hints. In truth, Peyroux has an immediately recognizable style all her own.

Jazz folks shouldn't complain that she has forgotten us in her quest for stardom. An artist like this is just what the commercial music scene needs nowadays. In any event, it would be a shame if people just associated this singer with khakis and denims.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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