February 2005

Emilie-Claire Barlow
February 10 – 12, 2005 Montréal Bistro Toronto
What is it about Emilie-Claire Barlow’s singing style that’s so special? I ask myself after knowing her last two CDs, after participating in the recent release Party at the Montreal Bistro of her latest CD, Like A Lover, and after listening carefully to that excellent album.
Her style is transparent. Transparent means she doesn’t over-sing the song by pushing lyrics, phrasing, or attack. She lets the melody come through her treatment. Another special thing is, Ms. Barlow lets the beat come through. Transparent also means that you may not notice how perfect her diction can be, especially as on one of her fast-talking specialty numbers like “(I’ve Got) Just About Everything I Need” (Bob Dorough). She has a daring relationship with silence, as we hear in “The Things We Did Last Summer” (Kahn/Styne, 1946), where she works accompanied only by Marc Roger’s bass.

During the first set of the release party, Emilie-Claire did “How High the Moon” (Hamilton/Lewis, 1940), not Les Paul and Mary Ford’s arrangement, but Ella Fitzgerald’s arrangement, and there it was: Emilie-Claire’s model for totally swinging free and completely natural—Ella. To round off this little portrait of a style, while listening to “Our Love is Here to Stay” (Gershwin/Gershwin, 1938), I was struck by the intimacy of her stylings, and the work of Blossom Dearie came to mind. Feels right.

Her repertoire at all times includes a few numbers by Antonio Carlos Jobim. “So Dança Samba” is the most beautifully balanced number on the record, mixing vocal and accompaniment just so, integrating a seamlessly smooth solo by the great John Johnson on tenor sax, and allowing the two Mar(c)ks, Rogers and Kelso, to engage in some fine bass/drum conversations. Jobim’s gently swinging beat, samba or bossa nova, and sensuous Portuguese lyrics bring out several other of Ms. Barlow’s best sides: the fluty quality of her attack; her uncanny ability to improvise or scat in any language while fitting in with the band like another instrument. Speaking of her band, Emilie-Claire is lucky to have Rob Pilch with her on guitar making those clear glass tones sparkle around her like a cloud of sequins.

Like a Lover is a very successful step into a new maturity for this accomplished artist.

We welcome your comments and feedback
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Report by Stanley Fefferman
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Photograph by Roger Humbert

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