Get a dose of passion, get down to DjangoFest

Posted in Duff 'n Stuff, Music

Duff ‘n Stuff, Sept. 21, 2010

Some people have ALL the talent.

I ran over to DjangoFest last night at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley and caught most of the final show of the evening with the outstanding singer Cyrille Aimee and the wildly talented guitarist Diego Figueredo.

Cyrille Aimee and Diego Figueredo perform together on tour. (Doug Morence photo.)

(Unfortunately, a theater rehearsal kept me from the chance to see the opening show of locals Billet Deux, a band I love and hope to see do their wonderful thing again soon.)

This DjangoFest show had so many memorable qualities, including the wonderful voice of Aimee that sounds like clean smoke. It’s a sultry, yet youthful sound, perfect for the jazz standards this duo favors, and slightly lilted in some combination of accents that comes from her native French. (She also speaks Spanish and English.)

But her main language seems to be music.

Cyrille, who is also gorgeous by the way, has that kind of presence that is endearing to an audience; like it’s your best friend singing to you. Curly-haired and long-legged, she wore a sexy, black lace dress with tan, patent leather platform pumps and is impossible to resist,  especially when she sings such alluring standards as the bossa nova favorite “The Girl From Ipanema” in the Portugese, “Garota de Ipanema,” or “Just the Two of Us,” and “Willow Weep for Me.”

Or when she scats like she learned it from Ella Fitzgerad herself; closing her eyes and following the sound of Figuredo’s incredibly specific fingering with her own quirky hand motions and gymnastic vocal chords. Cyrille also brought out a loop machine at one point and, using every tool of her talent – from beat boxing mouth sounds, to scats, to lyrical melodies – she created a composition of continually recorded sounds stacked on top of each other right before our ears and I had a very hard time to stay in my seat and not get up and dance.

And then there was Figueredo, with his red shirt, big afro and irresistable Brazilian smile, which he flashed often, thrusting his guitar high and low, moving all around in his chair as he played, trying to contain the fire that seems to burn out of control as he played with his mix of bossa nova, jazz and classical styles. Did I mention that his smile, his whole funny, expressive face, was infectious?

Figueredo, also somewhere in his late 20s, is as equally as charming as Aimee, whom he politely explained he met at the Montreux Jazz Festival, THE jazz festival of the world. Having received awards twice at Montreux, Figueredo is considered by his peers to be one of the greatest guitarists in the world, uniting technique and emotion and topping it all off with that animated and charming Brazilian presence.

Aimee, too, has won the vocal competition at Montreux and placed third at the 2010 Monk Jazz Vocals Competition.

It’s fitting that Aimee played DjangoFest, because it was the Romani themselves, Django Reinhardt’s clan, that taught her the language of music. The daughter of a Dominican mother and a French father, she was born in Samois-sur-Seine, a small town about 30 miles south of Paris. Reinhardt, the Manouche (French Romani or Gypsy) guitar virtuoso and composer, made his home there before his death in 1953. This was the place of her childhood (one of several); the place she learned that she was a singer. Her gypsy name is “Sweet Sue,” also the title of one of the first songs she learned to sing with the Manouche.

These are the kind of performers that islanders are lucky enough to have come to perform in their own backyard during DjangoFest. I recommend trying to see at least one of them before the whole thing ends on Sunday. It’s a chance to brush up against the purveyors of an old, European art form; to be sparked by the passion of those who keep the music alive.

Visit WICA’s website on DjangoFest to get the full schedule.

From the heart,

Patricia Duff

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