by Constance Tucker
Based in Bordeaux, Sophisticated Ladies highlights a celebrated tradition of female jazz groups. Sophisticated (no pun intended) and unassuming interpretations of standards make up the quartet’s debut, A True Story. Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Rachael Magidson accompanies her transcendent delivery of lyrics and authentic interpretive vocals with exquisite Afro Cuban percussion on “Sophisticated Lady.” Her polished tone on flugelhorn adds mysteriousness to the song. Her warm and expansive tone on “Insensatez” adds an atmospheric quality to the harmonies. The cut features bassist Nolwen Leizour’s whose lyrical pizzicato improvisation, adds a dimensional layer to the overall sound. Backed by pianist Valerie Chane-Tef’s well-placed ivory notes this cut transcends the listener.
Chane-Tef is a versatile pianist that showcases her range of abilities from classically influenced, sonata-like sounds on “You Go To My Head” to more up-tempo bossa nova nostalgia on “Autumn Leaves.” “You Go to Me Head” also features Leizour’s percussive bass, while “Autumn Leaves” highlights Emilie Calmé’s soaring flute agilities. Calmé’s intricate solo is the highlight of the tango underpinned instrumental. “Gone with the Wind” races with flourishes from Calmé as she switches to an Indian Bansuri bamboo flute. The track also features her deliciously angular duet with Leizour’s asymmetric bass lines. The more you delve into this wonderful ensemble’s sound the more it transports you to a speakeasy in the 1930’s and you almost at times feel you are reminiscing at a Billie Holiday show – it is almost uncanny how much Magidson captures Holiday’s unique delivery.
This fetching debut release not only highlights the singular talents of the band members, but also an impressive camaraderie that allows the music to seamlessly flow and truly makes this a collective offering. The varied cultural influences make this offering much more than a tributary release. It brings the authenticity to today’s listener while dappling in the sounds of today.