Vocalist and composer Madeleine Peyroux has a stylistic reach well beyond that of jazz. Her only peer in this respect is Nora Jones. True, she has a great fascination with Billie Holiday, but she has managed to assimilate this influence into her own presence and parlay it into the para-jazz realm with intelligent programming and song choice. These have been the hallmark of Peyroux's art over her six recordings.
Peyroux's music is beautifully crafted and organic with more polish than late '90s Cassandra Wilson. The instrument choice on a given song is as carefully chosen as the song itself; careful programming being another hallmark of Peyroux's art. Her book is no rubber-stamp of the Great American Songbook, assaulted yet another time. Charlie Chaplin's "Smile" is the closest thing to a standard in this collection (from Half a Perfect World, (Rounder, 2006)). It is delivered with spare instrumentation and a gently strolling tempo.
Peyroux's cover of Edith Piaf's iconic "La Vie En Rose" is perfect in its sardonic spirit, begging the question why Piaf has not provided much more material to contemporary singers to interpret. Randy Newman's "Guilty" is given a sleek, Ray Charles circa 1963 strings treatment. Her singing is closely set among the elaborate instrumentation, bearing a slight sepia tone without sounding archival. Part of Peyroux's genius lies in her melding of the new and the old into something that is both new and familiar.
Notable are the inclusion of two Warren Zevon pieces, making Peyroux Zevon's biggest benefactor since Linda Ronstadt. "Desperados Under the Eaves" is delicately provocative, sung in a comely and humid fashion. This is grown-up Zevon, performed with intent and grace. "Keep Me in Your Heart," one of Zevon's last songs is given a plaintive treatment demonstrating the extent of Peyroux's evolution from the album opener, "Don't Wait Too Long." In an age when a "Best of" compilation is suspect in the absence of the 45 rmp record (downloads are meaningless), it says a lot to release a recording like this. A collection of Peyroux's best is long overdue.
Don't Wait Too Long; You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome; Between The Bars; (Getting Some) Fun Out Of Life; Dance Me To The End Of Love; Smile; La Vie En Rose; Half The Perfect World; Guilty; I'm All Right; Desperadoes Under The Eaves [Extended Version]; The Kind You Can't Afford; Instead; Keep Me In Your Heart; This Is Heaven To Me.
Madeleine Peyroux: vocals and guitar; Dean parks: guitars (1-3, 5, 6, 8-11, 13, 15); Larry Goldings: keyboards (1-3, 5, 9, 11, 15); David Piltch: bass (1-3, 5-8, 15); Jay Bellerose: drums (1-3, 5, 8-11, 15). Cyrus Chestnut: piano (4); Steve Kirby: bass; Leon Parker: drums; Sam Yahel: keyboards (6, 8, 10); Till Bronner: trumpet (6); Scott Amendola: drums (6, 8); Mark Ribot: guitar (7, 12); Regina Carter: violin (7); Charlie Giordano: accordion (7); Gary Foster: alto saxophone (8); Christopher Bruce: guitar (12); Charlie Drayton: drums (12); John Kirby: keyboards (12); Meshell Ndegcello: bass (12); Larry Klein: bass (13); Vinnie Colaluta: drums (13); Jim Beard; piano (13); Duke Vinnie: guitar, bass (14); Jane Scarpantoni: cello (14); Robert Burke: drums(14); Lee Thornberg: trumpet (15).