Long After Midnight - top 10 Best Vocal CD's and best Female Singer for 2016 by Arnaldo DeSouteiro's Jazz Station
We spent 3 weeks in the Top 40 chart's, busting through at number 35 ; we spent 7 weeks on the CMJ Jazz Charts consistently coming in at the Top 5.
Lisa Lindsley & La Belle Époque take a deep dive into the Paul Simon Songbook with The Paul Simon Project
There must be 50 ways to love Paul Simon’s music, but Lisa Lindsley & La Belle Époque deliver something deliciously fresh on their new album, reimagining Simon’s songs through a continental jazz lens. A loving tribute to a composer too often overlooked by jazz artists, The Paul Simon Project is the fourth album by San Francisco Bay Area vocalist Lindsley and her Paris-based combo. Slated for release Nov 17,2023, the recording encompasses both some of the songwriter’s best-known tunes and obscurities, suggesting there are treasures still to be discovered in Simon’s back pages. That was the plan, Stan.
For Lindsley, the project flows from a life-long love of Simon’s music. In her teenage years as a devoted ballerina, “the first dance I ever did was to ‘59th Street Bridge Song,’” she recalled. Hanging out one evening with French pianist and arranger Laurent Marode at his house outside Paris, he pulled out Simon’s soundtrack for his 1980 film One-Trick Pony, “and the song ‘Nobody’ came on,” she said. “I’d forgotten how great that album is, and I said I’d like to sing this. We looked at each other and almost simultaneously said ‘We should do a Paul Simon album!’ It turns out that the first concert Laurent ever went to was Paul Simon.”
Featuring a persuasively swinging group of first-call Parisian jazz players, La Belle Époque includes drummer Mourad Benhammoud, bassist Fabien Marcoz and Esaie Cid on clarinet, saxophone, and flute. It’s mostly the same stellar cast as on 2016’s critically hailed Long After Midnight and 2017’s smoldering standards session Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?
Singing is a parallel career to her mainstay as an award-winning voice-over artist known for her work as Princess Leia in LeapFrog’s Star Wars game and the characters Soraka and Kayle in Riot Games’ hugely popular League of Legends. Rather than creating a new character, Lindsley is entirely herself on the project, interpreting Simon’s song with the wit, irony and lambent emotion of a veteran jazz artist.
The album opens with a few second of static, sonic trompe l'oeil evoking a stylus being placed on an LP. A flute passage introduces a sleek and playful version of “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover,” kicking off the album with a stiff shot of dopamine as Lindsley savors Simon’s intricate rhyme scheme. The title track of Simon’s 2016 album, “Stranger to Stranger” unfolds like an etude with a dash of noir. Cid’s clarinet serving as a wily foil as Lindsley sketches an encounter that bristles with a couple’s history and possible future.
The album’s centerpiece consists of two songs from Simon’s hit 1986 album Graceland, with a briskly reimagined take on the title track set to a rolling, road-tripping piano figure, and “Diamonds On the Souls of Her Shoes,” which glides on Marcoz’s supple bass line before breaking open into a gently celebratory South African groove.
“You’re Kind” distills one of Simon’s trademark skills, turning quotidian coupledom into vernacular poetry, a sensibility that Lindsley embraces with calm efficiency. “Nobody,” the song that sparked the project, captures another Simon gift. Opening like an updated version of Bert Williams’ famous 1905 lament of the same name, Simon’s nobody turns out to be somebody precious, indeed, and the song unfolds like a saloon benediction floating along a sensuous tenor sax solo.
The album closes with “Still Crazy After All These Years.” Cid’s lovely flute work harkens back to the opening “Fifty Ways,” but in this case it’s a garnish on an arrangement that hews closely to Simon’s original. Like a show biz trooper, Lindsley doesn’t come close to wearing out her welcome. The album fairly begs for a sequel.
In many ways The Paul Simon Project is the latest manifestation of Lindsley’s gift for following her muse. She originally moved to Paris about a decade ago with the plan of staying for a year. Her daughter, then an aspiring high school contortionist who wanted to hone her French while studying at the Fratellini Circus School, came up with the plan. Much to her surprise, Lindsley was game, and turned the adventure into the next step in her remarkable musical evolution.
While her daughter decided return to the states after six months to tour with a circus in Vermont, Lindsley settled into the 19th arrondissement and quickly developed a network of regular gigs with skilled accompanists. She documented these relationships on her second album, Long After Midnight, a gorgeous collection of sultry songs that capture jazz’s long-running romance with the City of Light.
“When we set out for Paris I had no gigs in mind,” Lindsley said. “I just went to all the open mics and I’d ask to sit in. The musicians were always really impressed I was an American singing the American Songbook. Afterwards I’d talk to the owner and that’s how I started getting gigs. Before long I found musicians I really enjoyed working with.”
Lindsley is no slouch at making a powerful first impression. A late-blooming artist who came to jazz singing in mid-life, she earned national attention with her stellar 2010 debut release Everytime We Say Goodbye, an intimate session featuring bassist Fred Randolph and superlative accompanist George Mesterhazy (who gained fame as pianist for Shirley Horn and Paula West).
Womanly and girlish, romantic and carnal, spirited and introverted, Lindsley comfortably inhabits a full range of roles and sensibilities. She’s a jazz singer who knows that the music is at its best when it flows from lived experience. While a relative latecomer to the bandstand, she’s been around the music her entire life. Lindsley grew up listening to jazz greats like Bill Evans, Dave Brubeck, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan because her father kept jazz and classical music playing on the stereo. Her mother, a film actress who had to leave Hollywood in the 1950s because of the McCarthy-era blacklist, imbued in her a love of theater.
While she gravitated to the rock and pop music of the day as a teenager, Lindsley discovered musical theater in high school, a passion that carried through to college. After graduating from the prestigious California Institute for the Arts (CalArts) theater program, she spent a decade touring and performing with The Imagination Company. Raising three daughters put her performing ambitions on hold for years, but she developed a successful career as a voice-over artist, cast in national ad campaigns, radio shows and video games.
Just like her daughter led her to Paris, Lindsley found her way back to music when her daughters got involved in musical theater. Her work as Vicky in a production of The Full Monty caught the attention of the bartender at a jazzspot in the East Bay artist colony of Pt. Richmond, and he invited her to sit in at a jam session. The experience was an epiphany. Realizing the jazz was an ideal creative outlet, Lindsley delved into the Bay Area’s rich pool of jazz education. She honed her skills with Roger Letson at Contra Costa College, and studied with Maye Cavallero, Laurie Antonioli and Pamela Rose at the California Jazz Conservatory in Berkeley. Veteran Bay Area pianist/drummer Kelly Park provided essential on the job training.
In turning herself into a consummate professional, Lindsley has also turned into a powerfully expressive artist. With The Paul Simon Project, she’s upped the creative ante, introducing untrod musical terrain where other jazz vocalists are sure to follow.