February 2006

Lenni Jabour and the Third Floor
February 14, 2006Drake Hotel UndergroundToronto
An Original Worth Celebrating
by Andy Frank with photo by José Romelo Lagman
Prior to reviewing a gig, I enjoy mingling a little with the audience, who typically present themselves prepared to enjoy the distinct brand of pleasure the artist offers. Like Maple Leaf fans wearing their favourite player’s jersey at the ACC, I’m always eager to see what the attraction’s fanatics wear, what they’re talking about, and if the show delivers to their heightened expectations.

On Valentine’s Day at the Drake Underground’s 10:00 PM presentation of Miss Lenni Jabour and The Third Floor, the largely feminine thirty-something audience is not only dressed to kill, many of them could blend seamlessly into a smoky, early 20th century Champs Elysée speakeasy. Conversations are animated, polite laughter can be heard throughout the small room, and there is even a smattering of delightful Queen Street Franglais being playfully exchanged at the bar, where sweet mixed drinks are dwarfing draft beer sales.

The Third Floor takes the stage first, beginning with stoic hippy Rosalita, suit-wearing stand-up bassist Drew, drummer Mark, lovely violinist Karen, and Lenni’s trusted sidekick, cellist Alex. Moments later, Miss (her term) Jabour emerges through the crowd, dressed entirely as a small, thin New York City mobster from a by-gone era complete with aviator sunglasses. With a great Brooklyn accent, a short-haired Lenni amuses the audience with her faux-male shtick and ironically, sings “La Fille Avec Les Cheveux Longs” at the stand up-mike while she strips.

Lenni Jabour

Garment piece by garment piece, the mobster is laid to rest by the side of the keyboard where Lenni will sit for the balance of the show (laundry by her side). She reveals hot fishnet stockings, a sequined black leotard, slips on an audacious pair of red heels, applies bright red lipstick to her expressive mouth and to the delight of the crowd, flings off the shades to expose her stunning eyes.

This is the first of several entertaining stunts the troupe stages throughout the short set, including a one-minute boogie by a trio of sexy young dancers in baby blue hot pants topped with red toques, an odd skit featuring a vain male character returning a borrowed wrench as a Valentine’s gift, and a fabulous hula-hoop performance by the otherwise redundant flower-child Rosalita — a feat performed to a terrific version of the Jackson 5’s ABC. Lenni Jabour has been around long enough to know how to use these energizers in just the right doses.

The real attraction (I hope) for most of the gathered admirers is Lenni Jabour’s delicious array of ballads, cabaret numbers, perfectly articulated original French songs and expert keyboard work. This is one talented broad whose music is not designed to wow us with great vocal range, but does demand excellent voice control, from whispers to howls, ballad to burlesque, French to English to Latin.

Lenni Jabour’s most lethal weapon, however, is a smiling charm that could seduce George Walker Bush into dancing a waltz with Osama Bin Laden. Her keyboard antics are from the Victor Borge school, and her abundant humour is in the details (such as her repeated use of a flask for drinking water, complete with all the gestures associated with the implied imbibement). Lenni Jabour is an entertainer culled from another era, or, as one of her fans whispered to me during the show, another country, maybe even another planet. It does seem to require an open mind and fine appreciation for cross-cultural and cross-genre (gender?) music to enjoy it as much as this giddy Valentine’s Day crowd did, and I have to agree with them: Lenni Jabour is indeed an original worth celebrating.
We welcome your comments and feedback
Andy Frank
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José Romelo Lagman
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The Live Music Report

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