Close enough for love

For her first release on Universal, the singer Fleurine gives the listener something unique. Her style draws from a variety of influences, but they’ve melded together beautifully in this collection of songs. Despite the broad stylistic range of the music, there’s a definite flavor throughout this record. “Close Enough for Love” is the title track, and the music here has a certain ‘closeness’. The duo format with pianist Brad Mehldau, augmented by strings on three tracks, is a decidedly intimate one. This music is never pushy, but prefers to draw the listeners into its world, and slowly seduce them.

Fleurine’s first C.D.on the BlueMusic label entitled “Meant to Be!” included a great band made up of Tom Harrell, Ralph Moore, Jesse van Ruller, Renee Rosnes, Christian McBride and Billy Drummond, with Don Sickler arranging and producing. On this widely acclaimed debut album, (which will be re-released by Universal,) Fleurine proved to be a talented lyricist who likes a challenge. She set lyrics to songs that one wouldn’t expect a lyric on – compositions from the likes of Thad Jones, Kenny Dorham, and Thelonious Monk.

Fleurine’s vision lies in her ability to see a potential lyric over melodies that we know as characteristically instrumental. She continues in that vein here, setting words to Pat Metheny’s guitar melody on “Better Days Ahead”, and three of Brad’s typically quirky tunes, full of wide leaps and strange intervals. In her hands, the end result sounds like a vocal melody. Much of that has to do not just with her musical skills, but with her large knowledge of language, with all its nuances and shadings. One should say more accurately, ‘languages’: Fleurine is fluent in her native Dutch, English, French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. She pays great attention to diction, and the clarity of the words in her singing is a real pleasure in itself.

Fleurine and Brad are a great match because they both enjoy a lot of different kinds of music, and share an open attitude toward incorporating all of those styles into their own vision. Both have a love for jazz, so there’s a fair amount of improvising going on. Often, Fleurine likes to give us her interpretation of the melody the first time through, and then makes up a new melody on the second go around after Brad’s solo. She’s developing something personal here. It’s different than ‘scat singing’, because she still sings the words of the song (and occasionally adds her own, as in “Logical Song”). One could say she’s ‘blowing on the lyrics’, addressing the harmony of the song as well, like an instrumental soloist does. Check out this approach on “Caminhos Crusados”, “Better Days Ahead”, “Chanson de Delphine” and “Made of Sand”, among others.

Brad’s love for the art-songs of Schubert and Schumann, and the ‘miniature’ piano piece à la Chopin or Brahms comes out in the three tunes of his included here, “Resignacão Não Pra Nós”, “Sem Resposta” and “O Amor Chegou”. For these, Fleurine chose to write lyrics in that bewitching, musical language, Brazilian Portuguese. The marriage of music and words here is trouble free, and it’s not surprising when one considers the elements of Romantic Classical harmony that inform the songs of a master Brazillian composer like Jobim. These three songs are perhaps the most ‘personal’ on the record, as they don’t easily fit into any category. Although Fleurine has a great passion for the music of Brazil, the Portuguese songs here, including Jobim’s own “Caminhos Crusados”, are not in a bossa nova feel, nor are they trying to be.

Fleurine and Brad share a love for songs, whether it’s an original, a jazz tune, tin pan alley, Jobim, or rock’n’roll. Whatever they’re playing together, you feel that fondness that they have for their material and it’s infectious. Let’s take a look at the tracks:  Read more