There ought never to be a deprecating appreciating of a recording that presents standards in a straight-forward, relatively unadorned and somewhat retro manner. ‘Retro’ has come to be equated with something that has and ought to have been left behind. But Fleur Seule who present a collection of emotionally – even sentimentally delivered – songs from another era in a ‘period’ setting, with ‘period’ arrangements complete with three-voice harmony makes this particularly alluring. For one it is an opportunity to admire artfully written songs from that era, performed in a kind of ‘jazz-age’ presentation.
However, more than anything else, the real treat group is the group’s alluring bandleader and lead vocalist. Allyson Briggs is a gorgeously sweet and agile soprano. Moreover she is perfectly matched by the silken tenor (the arrangements) of trumpeter Andy Warren. Miss Briggs’ renditions of these standards are also borne aloft on pianist Jason Yeager’s delicate and shimmering pianism and – in the interminably emotive version of “Tenderly – by the profoundly-beautiful con arco performance of bassist Michael O’Brien. Miss Briggs’ instrument is lustrous and precise. Her enunciation is superb and with phases which end in a feather-light vibrato, her allure is irresistible. All praise to her also for being able to lead this ensemble from the front.
The mood here flips between lyric, sexy, ruminative, teasing and dramatic so there is plenty in these 16 tracks to delight the novice and the connoisseurs alike. “Misty” is (for me) one of the high points of this disc (the other is “S’Wonderful”), but I suspect that others might fight each other and me as well with favourites of their own. But I would yield immediately to a challenger; there is, after all, much to like here. The sound of this recording is warm and intimate, and is detailed enough to bring crisp clarity to the superb brush-work of drummer Paul Francis as well.
Miss Briggs also sings creditably in Spanish (listen to “Con Los Años que me Quedan”) and French (“La Vie en Rose”), and even if she is singing ‘phœnetically’, that aspect is hardly discernable. I also suspect that this performance would have been better-served by a DVD. But perhaps that would be wishful thinking on my part…
Track list – 1: Taking a Chance on Love; 2: Piel Canela; 3: I Only Have Eyes for You; 4: Zou BIsou Bisou; 5: Sabor a mí; 6: Then There Eyes; 7: Tenderly; 8: Manuelo; 9: Misty; 10: Shoo-Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy; 11: Con Los Años que me Quedan; 12: Almost Like Being in Love; 13: La Vie en Rose; 14: Sweet Happy Life; 15: Embraceable You; 16: S’Wonderful
Personnel – The Fleur Seule Band is – Allyson Briggs: vocals and bandleader; Andy Warren: trumpet, arranger and musical director; Jason Yeager: piano; Michael O’Brien: bass; Paul Francis: drums; Richard Miller: guitar; Ivan Llanes: percussion; Martina DaSilva, Vanessa Perea and Marg Davis: backing vocals
Released – 2019
Label – Independent
Runtime – 1:02:48