France’s new singing hope: Vocal jazz with edge, depth and that certain je ne sais quoi.
She is the new vocal-jazz sensation in a Paris scene already filled with inspiring names. Now at the age of 29 years, Lou Tavano is bringing out her first album, an oeuvre that will cause just as much of a stir as her fiery-red mane of hair.
Despite its simplicity and apparent unambiguousness, the title of her debut ACT album “For You” has many dimensions. It is coined for everyone, and yet for one person in particular. For everyone because this young artist’s singing, which takes its inspiration from within, is directed to the outside and demands to be heard. For one, because this is the fruit of a collaboration of many years with the pianist Alexey Asantcheeff, who stands at Tavano’s side in the Parisian music milieu. He is the author of most of the themes and tracks on the album, and of the eminently nuanced and detailed arrangements that envelope the singer’s enigmatic and profound timbre like a tailor-made cloak.
Tavano and Asantcheeff met over Duke Ellington’s “Satin Doll”: she, the daughter of a rock drummer, who grew up with classical piano before finding her musical home in vocals, he, the son of a Scottish mother and a Belarussian father, whose playing is steeped in Slavic melancholy. When Asantcheeff heard Tavano’s sing and how she interpreted the well-known jazz standard, he couldn’t get one thought out of his head: “…the world has to hear this voice!”
Both were hardly twenty when they made music the realm of their artistic collaboration and decided to walk the jazz path together that was built on their personal influences, from symphonic music, lyrical vocals, jazz and folk, all the way through to the French chanson tradition and Balinese music.
Working with a top-class band peppered with young talents from Paris, Tavano and Asantcheeff defined their repertoire down to the smallest detail. With every concert their songs gained maturity, and had the colour and life of jazz breathed into them. Tavano’s extraordinary talent soon became obvious: the ability to create a musical universe in which words carry just as much weight as notes.
“I can’t make music without words,” she admits. She gives very special meaning to everything she sings, found in the resonance of her own personal history, but without limiting her lyrics to the autobiographical. Even if the words always come second when composing a song – “It is always the music that awakens the story to life” – they are first when it comes to the expression. Every song has a story in it somewhere, every track a dedication, whether it lies on the surface for everyone to see, or hidden waiting to be discovered.
So it comes as no surprise that the Tavano’s influences can not only be found on the map of jazz. They take her craft on the first leg of its journey, but at a respectful distance – for instance in her version of “Afro
Blue”, which transports her to Bali. Alongside “interpretation role-models” like Nina Simone and Billie Holiday, Tavano invokes a wide range of personalities: Joni Mitchell “for the way she tells a story”, Tracy Chapman “especially for her flow and way of presenting lyrics”, or Jacques Brel, who “can expose exactly the part of something he wants seen.”
“For me there is no such thing as singing technique,” says Tavano, although she herself has no lack of it. “If the interpretation is right, the voice follows. It is an experience that never loses its fascination, when what you feel matches what you express.”