Ask Judge William Lee if he wishes he had continued his French lessons and he'll reply, "Non, je ne regrette rien." French or no French, it's easy to enjoy the beautiful music of Edith Piaf.
Six international artists pay homage to an iconic French singer at this 2004 Montreaux concert.
Re-recorded and re-interpreted by international artists spanning many different genres, Edith Piaf (1915-63) remains an iconic French songstress. Her voice and style was so distinct that the makers of the biopic La Vie en Rose chose to use her original recordings on the soundtrack rather than have Marion Cotillard imitate France's beloved songbird. Cotillard received an Oscar nomination for her portrayal but the songs were all Edith Piaf. From the gutters of Paris to the international stage, Piaf's life was filled with public drama and private pain. She associated with giants of the film world (Jean Cocteau, Yves Montand, and Marlene Dietrich) but her realm was the music hall. Lovingly remembered in her country, and influential to a broad spectrum of the music world, Piaf's music will always be the soul of Paris.
Recorded live at the Swiss jazz festival, A Tribute to Edith Piaf: Live at Montreux 2004 pays loving homage to one of the French-speaking world's favorite vocalists. Pianist Baptiste Trotignon leads the jazz quartet comprised of Marc Berthoumieux (accordion), Rémi Vignolo (bass) and André Ceccarelli (drums). They backup six artists from three continents where Piaf's music still resonates. The song line-up:
Baptist Trotignon and musicians:
Michael von der Heide:
This concert DVD looks good with the cameras capturing reasonably sharp detail. Against the black background the performers on stage are lit in reds and blues. The image is almost constantly changing between four cameras, mixing angles of the vocalists with close-ups of the instruments. This creates the impression that the image is always in motion but it is a pattern that becomes tiresome after a while. It wouldn't have hurt to linger on the vocalists a little longer. And the transitions seem unmotivated sometimes which creates the impression that the camera is moving away from the action rather than toward it. The editing choices improve, and are less distracting, as the concert progresses.
Except for Ute Lemper, I had never seen these artists in performance before so I don't know if they were up to their usual form or not. Swiss crooner Michael von der Heide does a respectable job as the first vocalist. He punches out the lyrics with a powerful voice but his performance is the least memorable of the concert. Ute Lemper builds in emotional energy over her three songs with a smoky, cabaret style. By the time she reaches the end of her set it feels like a fire has been lit under the audience. Régine performs a pair of songs edged with the French equivalent of sass. Like comfort food, a dash of American jazz is added to the mix when Barbara Morrison makes an English contribution. Catherine Ringer proves to be the most playful of the assembled artists. Moving through a few emotional ranges in her set—she goes from flirty to melancholic in the same number—she brings a theatrical vibe to the stage. Angélique Kidjo delivers an aggressive rendition of her numbers in crisp Benin-accented French. The concert concludes with all the artists on stage to perform a collective version of Piaf's signature song "La Vie En Rose."
The concert is presented with a very good audio mix. Some environmental noise preserves the feeling of the live venue where this performance was recorded, but the soundtrack places the viewer on the stage with the artists. The instruments are well-balanced and the vocals are clearly featured up front. For those who still enjoy hearing music from two channels only, the PCM Stereo mix is clean and very strong. The surround mix is available in both Dolby and DTS encoding.
The helpful liner notes pack a lot of information onto three panels. Some key lyrics are translated and more details about Piaf's life are incorporated into the introductions to each song. There are no extras on the disc itself.
A Tribute to Edith Piaf: Live at Montreux 2004 is a good presentation of an ensemble concert. There is no voice like Edith Piaf's but the assembled artists at this concert do nice work that honors her style. This disc will appeal mostly to jazz lovers looking for some Paris flavor. Even without French fluency the music can be enjoyed. Like warm crusty bread or a view of the Eiffel Tower, the music has a comforting, romantic energy that isn't limited by language.
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