Jazz vocalist Lisa Lindsley says that moving to Paris for a year was an idea proposed by her daughter, an aspiring high school contortionist who wanted to hone her French while studying at the Fratellini Circus School. Much to her daughter’s surprise, Lindsley put the plan in motion, and turned the adventure into the next step in her remarkable musical evolution. While her daughter decided return to the states after six months to tour with a circus in Vermont, Lindsley settled into the 19th arrondissement and quickly developed a network of regular gigs with skilled accompanists.
She documents these relationships on her second album, Long After Midnight, a gorgeous collection of sultry songs on her Take One Music label that’s available in Europe (and digitally) May 13, and in the USA June 10, 2016. “When we set out for Paris I had no gigs in mind,” says Lindsley, a longtime resident of the San Francisco Bay Area. “I just went to all the open mics and I’d ask to sit in. The musicians were always really impressed I was an American singing the American Songbook. Afterwards I’d talk to the owner and that’s how I started getting gigs. Before long I found musicians I really enjoyed working with.”
Lindsley is no slouch at making a powerful first impression. A late blooming artist who came to jazz singing in mid-life, she earned national attention with her stellar 2010 debut release Everytime We Say Goodbye, an intimate session featuring bassist Fred Randolph and superlative accompanist George Mesterhazy (pianist for Shirley Horn and Paula West). She’s been working steadily around the Bay Area over the past decade, but when she and her daughter relocated to Paris in the fall of 2013 Lindsley put everything on hold, including her prolific career as a voice-over artist of considerable celebrity. As the voice of Princess Leia in LeapFrog’s Star Wars game and the characters Soraka and Kayle in Riot Games’ hugely popular online game League of Legends “I get fan mail and fans cry when they meet me,” Lindsley says.
Far more than a souvenir of her year-long adventure, Long After Midnight is a fully realized statement from an artist with a discerning ear for overlooked material and a sure sense of songs ideally suited for her pleasingly smoky soprano. Working with a stellar coterie of Parisian players, she delivers an irresistible program featuring pianist Laurent Marode, drummer Mourad Benhammou, Esaie Cid on flute, clarinet and tenor saxophone, and Bay Area bass master Jeff Chambers (the Paris session’s only ringer). “Jeff used to play in Paris a lot. As soon as he walked into the studio Mourad Benhammou said ‘I saw you play with Bobby Hutcherson 20 years ago.’ We went in and laid down 15 songs in the first day. It was the Mesterhazy thing all over again,” says Lindsley, referring to the copacetic studio chemistry that pervaded her debut album. Opening with the title track, Lindsley doesn’t waste any time sharing the music she gathered on her sojourn. With its echoes of Thelonious Monk’s iconic ballad “Round Midnight,” James Wilson and Tricia Lee Sampson’s lovely “Long After Midnight” offers an alluring invitation to a seductive nighttime world that pulses with the heartbeat of Chambers’ imposing bass. She introduces another gem by Wilson, a California-raised jazz guitarist who teaches music at the American School of Paris, with “Skylark Song,” a delightfully fluttery melody on which her poignant vocals swoop and glide with Cid’s lustrous flute.