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Melody Gardot and New York Pops Open Central Park Summerstage 2010

Ernest Barteldes By

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Melody Gardot and the New York Pops
Central Park/Mainstage
Rumsey Playfield
New York, New York
June 1, 2010

For the opening of the 2010 Central Park Summerstage concert series, the New York Pops (which also performed at the 2009 opener) kicked off with versions of Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo a La Turk" and Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" before welcoming Melody Gardot, who came on with her four-piece band comprising Charles Staab III (drums), Charnett Moffett (bass), Irwin Hall and Anthony Ware (saxophone, flute and clarinet).

Gardot came on stage by herself, and taking her acoustic guitar she performed a slow, moving tune whose lyrics spoke of holding on to a love affair even though the feeling has gone away. The Pops backed her with a very subtle arrangement that accented critical details without ever overwhelming the singer. Next, her band came on stage gradually as she gravitated to the soft ballad "For The Birds."

Gardot has a sunny 1950s quality to her voice, with a tone that might remind listeners of Doris Day. Her style, however, is intensely personal. Unlike many jazz vocalists, she sings mostly original material—songs that speak of yearning and pain. The tunes have a Brazilian feel to them, almost bordering on bossa nova—or at least bossa as she grasps it while making it her own. That quality was specially evident on the third tune, which had a Latin-esque feel to it.

Possibly understanding that many in the audience were unfamiliar with her work (some in attendance could be heard talking about how they'd never heard of her), Gardot chose a very eclectic program, switching between more contemporary tunes, blues, funk-inflected moments and also ballads—including a French-language song that featured an extended sax solo from Hall.

There were only two standards, which were played towards the end of the concert. Duke Ellington's "Caravan" showcased individual solos from the entire band, and a very personal rendition of "Over The Rainbow" closed the performance with a spine-tingling intro from Moffett.

With her no-nonsense approach, her dexterity on both guitar and piano, her firm vocals and overall charm at Summerstage, Gardot has proven that she is well on her way to being discovered by wider, and larger, audiences both Stateside and abroad. It is just a matter of time.

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