Listening to Canadian vocal artist Patrice Jégou's second album, If It Ain't Love, one would never think that she once was a world-class professional figure skater. One would also immediately discern that she and her similarly world-class musical partners have delivered a perfect-10 performance.
Surrounded on the opener by Take 6's Mark Kibble and Alvin Chea, Jégou and the "sextet" burn a capella through a terrific send up of "Lover Come Back to Me." Backed by the swinging Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra and a fine Count Basie-like arrangement by John Clayton, Jégou covers the old Benny Goodman horse, "Jersey Bounce" with flair. Things soften with a gorgeously lush rendition of "Baubles, Bangles and Beads" with Maestro Jorge Calandrelli's strings caressing Jégeou's vocal silk. The tone grows funk-gospel gumbo on Allen Toussaint's "Yes We Can, Can" (with Tata Vega joining Jégou) and followed by the highly inspirational "I'm So Glad I'm Standing Here Today." Jégou and her friends soar celestial on both cuts.
Across the session, Ms. Jégou demonstrates that she has very strong vocal chops, graceful lyric sensitivity, ace pitch and a killer groove feel. She works extremely well with all the various ensembles large, small and a capella. That's the sign of a very talented artist. She's got the chops and the breadth to belt out Big Band swinging behind the Clayton-Hamilton unit ("If It Ain't Love," "Just Squeeze Me," "Please Send Me Someone to Love") or to go romantically seductive ("Estate" and "Remembrances"). She's a capella bella on "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams"" and swings tail on a second send-up of of "Lover Come Back to Me" (both of these with the entire, Grammy-heavy Take 6 crew). Her performance of Bill Evans' classic, "Waltz for Debby" is dynamically dynamic and her take on Randy Newman's country-esque "Losing You" is sentimental, not saccharine. "Where Do You Start" is a Jégou-Calandrelli vocal gem that's as wonderful as Barbra Streisand's celebrated version (which was also done by Maestro Calandrelli). Stephen Bishop's "It Might Be You" from Tootsie (Warner Bros., 1983) is Jégou being pop pure that wraps a fine ribbon around the fifteen prior goodies.
Kudos are due to the all-star cast of performers and arrangers, including Jorge Calandrelli, John Clayton, Mark Kibble, Mike Lang and David Paich. The production values all around are impeccable, as one would expect from Jégou and her entire star-quality family.
It certainly is to our benefit that Patrice Jégou gave up skates for song. She is a very gifted and versatile talent and it's all here to relish. To paraphrase an old Tennessee Ernie Ford '50s pop tune: "You hear sixteen tunes and what do you get?" in the case of If It Ain't Love, possibly a small golden Gramophone.
Lover Come Back to Me, Jersey Bounce, Baubles, Bangles and Beads, Yes, We Can, Can, I'm So Glad
I'm Standing Here Today, Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams, If It Ain't Love, Estate, Lover Come Back to
Me, Waltz for Debby, Losing You, Just Squeeze Me, Where Do You Start, Remembrances, Please
Send Me Someone to Love, It Might Be You.
Patrice Jegou: vocals; Mark Kibble: vocals (1, 8, 9), percussion (9); Alvin Chea: vocals (1); Take 6:
vocals (6) ; The Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra (2, 7, 12, 15); Gilbert Castellanos: trumpet (2); Mike Lang:
piano (3, 5, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16) Rhodes (4,14), Ramon Stagnaro: guitar (3, 13,), acoustic guitar (14);
Kevin Axt: bass (3, 5, 8, 13); Ray Brinker: drums (3, 13); Luis Conte (3, 13): Percussion (3); David Lang:
Wurlitzer (4); David Paich: Hammond B-3, piano (4); Dean Parks: guitar (4); Abraham Laboirel, Sr.:
bass (4, 14); Steve Ferrone: drums (4, 14); Lenny Castro: percussion (4, 14); Tom Scott: tenor
saxophone (3); Choir (4, 5): Bill Cantos (4), Kurt Lykes, Jamie McCrary, Jason Morales, Melodye Perry,
Alfie Silas. Tiffany Smith, Tata Vega; Larry Koonse: acoustic guitar (5, 8), guitar (14); Michael
Thompson: electric guitar (5, 8); John "J.R." Robinson: drums (5, 8); Yaron Gershovsky: piano (9), Boris
Kozlov: bass (9); Cliff Almond: drums (9); Steve Patrick, Mike Barry: trumpets (9); Doug Moffet: tenor
and baritone saxophone (9); Sam Levine: alto saxophone (9); Roy Agee: trombone (9); Greg
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