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Cyrille Aimée and Diego Figueiredo at Nighttown

Matt Marshall By

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Cyrille Aimée and Diego Figueiredo
Nighttown
Cleveland Heights, OH
September 27, 2011

At the midpoint of her show with guitarist Diego Figueiredo on Sept. 27 at Cleveland's Nighttown, singer Cyrille Aimée pulled out her loop pedal and set about constructing the rhythmic and harmonic vocal tracks that would form the pulsing, multilayered foundation for a French-lyric song of her own composition. The wordless backing, with its beat-box bump and skip, had as much to do with hip-hop as jazz, as would much of the scatting on the other songs the duo performed this night—chestnuts such as "Old Devil Moon" and "Night In Tunisia," and Brazilian and French music standards, plus original compositions.

Unlike the rollercoaster melodic flights of much scatting, Aimée often settled into blues-like repetition held within a limited tonal range—a rhythmic effect offset by stretched open vowels and, yes, snippets of more conventional scatting. In this, her voice came close to giving the music what might be scat's ideal—an additional instrument, rather than just some playful, wordless singing. As if to enforce—or aid in—this ideal, her left arm repeatedly pumped back and forth as if blowing the tones out through an invisible trombone.

But she showed herself a fine conventional singer as well. A finalist in the 2010 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocal Competition, Aimée's voice soared with confident ease on the ballads favored by the duo, her French accent lending a cabaret feel not only to "La Vie En Rose" and "Que Reste-t'il," and the Portuguese bossa nova numbers, but to English-lyric standards as well, like a wonderful take on "Bye Bye Blackbird," rendered in half-spoken, Marlene Dietrich-like phrasing that morphed into a scatting Aimée, smeared over Figueiredo's guitar lines like thick paint.

With his Sideshow Bob 'fro tossing back and forth atop an ever-rocking body, Figueiredo churned loose complex, invigorating lines that spun on and on. Occupying more solo space than heard on the duo's pair of records—Smile (Self Produced, 2009) and Just the Two of Us (Venus, 2010)—Figueiredo repeatedly floored an appreciative audience with the resplendent skill of a classical master, his racing fingers scribbling harried yet perfectly detailed sketches from Spanish, bossa and modern jazz forms. He slipped easily from quick classical lines to thumping funk on "Dindi," a song Aimée sang in an engaging, conversational English. While a solo Brazilian piece he played immediately before Aimée's loop pedal song proved the show-stealer—packed as it was with otherworldly technical proficiency—Figueiredo stitched a line that thread Andrés Segovia, Bootsy Collins, George Gershwin and Django Reinhardt.

Working off the relaxed Brazilian vibe struck in the opening set by guitarist Moises Borges and trumpeter Kenny Davis, Aimée and Figueiredo turned in an inebriating acoustic set—the lazy cabaret smoke and beach breezes blending with the rapid yet pointed lines from both guitarist and singer in a sublime mix.

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