“Misty,” “Tenderly,” “Sabor a Mi,” double-dipping into the Gershwins’ songbook … In their collection of Standards and Sweet Things the group known as Fleur Seule makes some of the same choices made by others we’ve been listening to in our survey of recent collections featuring enduring classics. It’s just more proof that certain pop items pop up more often than others—and thrive. (And this reviewer hasn’t tired of any of them, listening to the discs several times each over a few days.)
Cute but unpretentious, this throwback-intentional congregation doesn’t have modernizing or manipulating material on its agenda. Unabashedly retro, they call themselves a “young group of old souls.” They sure do appear to be exactly that! Beguilingly, Fleur Seule could be musical Rip Van Winkles waking from a decades-long sleep performing music in an innocent, fun way that is absent any real evidence of being in the 21st century.
Creamy-voiced lead singer Allyson Briggs (also the and album producer) can glide over melodies with a cooing, calming vibe or settle into breezy scat singing interpolating phrases from other assorted tunes. There’s some variation on instrumentation from track to track, and a trio of women provide back-up vocals in three cases. Fleur Seule has its own very gentle, understated, charming sound and style. Banishing drama and tension, the relaxed, cheerily unruffled manner, enlivened by arranger/music director Andy Warren’s zippy trumpet playing, makes them the sorbet of music.
Show tunes here include smiley romps through Brigadoon‘s “Almost Like Being in Love” (which must be a personal fave, as it appears on one of their other recordings) and “Taking a Chance on Love” from Cabin in the Sky. The Gershwin brothers’ Broadway successes are well treated with a bright, brisk, scat-infused “‘S Wonderful” and a radiantly relaxed “Embraceable You” that allows pianist Jason Yeager to glow in slow-mo luxury.
Although its enchanting melody came from the Brazilian movie Black Orpheus, “Samba de Orfeo” is heard with its English lyric, “Sweet Happy Life”—and it certainly adds to the “sweet” in Standards and Sweet Things. But the collection is by no means an all-English affair, with numbers in Spanish and French prominent, such as “Sabor a Mi” and “La vie en rose,” respectively. After all, the group’s name is French, meaning “single flower.” And Fleur Seule’s latest release is a bouquet of beauties that smells like a hit.