French vocalist Cyrille Aimee, the winner of the Montreux Jazz Festival’s vocal competition and the Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Competition, will make her Center for the Performing Arts debut on Feb. 12.
Aimee and her band will perform music from her new CD, “It’s A Good Day,” released in August on the Mack Avenue Records label. Her major-label album debut includes a mix of originals and standards, such as Rodgers and Hart’s “Where or When,” “Young at Heart,” a song popularized by Frank Sinatra, and the title track made famous by Peggy Lee. Aimee’s concert band features three guitarists (jazz, gypsy and Brazilian) with bass and drums.
“I first started singing when I met the gypsies in my hometown (Fontainebleau, France) — they were my biggest influence,” Aimee said. “But I was also influenced by Django Reinhardt, Ella Fitzgerald and Michael Jackson.”
Aimee, who has lived in Paris, Cameroon, Singapore and the Dominican Republic, today calls Brooklyn home. Singing mostly in English, she has added an ever-expanding understanding of American jazz to her repertoire.
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“I am very influenced by Latin music because of my mom’s culture, as well as gypsy music,” she said. “But I also love American jazz and the American Songbook, which is what I came to study here in New York.”
Continuing to explore a wide range of musical styles, Aimee tours the world with her band as well as in a duo setting with Brazilian guitarist Diego Figueiredo. The captivating multi-guitar sound on “It’s a Good Day” is provided by Aimee’s close collaborator, Michael Valeanu, a player of French and Italian extraction on a contemporary jazz-style electric guitar; Adrien Moignard on the steel-string guitar that gypsies favor due to its piercing, staccato sound; and Brazilian guitarist Guilherme Monteiro, who relies on a nylon-stringed instrument that provides the soft and sensuous sound of the bossa nova. The band is rounded out and held together by the flexible and fluid rhythm section of bassist Sam Anning and drummer Rajiv Jayaweera.
Aimee said she has had the privilege of being raised and living in parts of the world where music and culture are most celebrated, which provided her with a wide array of multicultural influences. Growing up in that environment contributed to Aimee’s unique sound and love for music, but for her it’s really just been a natural process.
“To me music is a part of everyday life,” she said. “I don’t read music, and the people I learned it from don’t either. It’s from the heart, not from the head.”
Aimee said doing what she does is simple.
“My main goal is happiness, and that is what recording and performing brings me — I wish to be as happy as possible,” she said. “But I also like to see the audience smile and feel happy. I choose songs with positive messages because I want people to see how beautiful life is.”