‘Blue’ Lady — Madeleine Peyroux pays tribute to Ray Charles
By Annie Alleman For Sun-Times Media April 3, 2014 12:34PM
Madeleine Peyroux | ROCKY SCHENCKCOM
April 6, McAninch Arts Center at College of DuPage, 425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn. $48. (630) 942-4000; AtTheMac.org
Updated: April 3, 2014 12:45PM
If you like the smooth jazz sounds of Billie Holiday, give Madeleine Peyroux a try.
Peyroux, who seamlessly blends jazz, blues, country and pop into a lush yet stripped-down mix, performs in concert April 6 at The McAninch Arts Center at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn.
She will present songs from her latest album, “The Blue Room,” a tribute to the seminal Ray Charles album, “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music.”
Born in Athens, Ga., and raised in New York and California, Peyroux moved with her mother to Paris at age 13 when her parents divorced. Two years later, she began singing, and at age 16, joined The Lost Wandering Blues and Jazz Band. After that, she spent a number of years touring Europe performing jazz standards.
Peyroux keeps a low profile, but took a moment to answer some questions via email in advance of her show at The MAC.
Q.What initially drew you to jazz, blues and country music?
Madeleine Peyroux: I guess when I heard Fats Waller play piano. I think that was one of the first artists I heard who combined virtuosity with stories and human emotions. Music soothes the savage beast. It’s a good line. Everyone is a bit savage, and in my family music was the only time we all spent quietly together. Ironically, we think of music as noise, filling space, but really it is a way to experience silence. To listen. I think by definition a singer is just someone who wants to be heard. And music is the way to make people listen.
Q.You moved to France at 13. How do you feel that shaped the direction of your music and your career? How has it impacted your perspective on American music?
MP: I have lived parts of my life in the U.S. as well as France and Europe and I would reckon that all are incorporated in my music identity. American music and culture has a special power. New Orleans, being where my father grew up, was the most responsible for my musical education. But I could not have ever learned to play live without the inviting atmosphere of the streets of Paris. The simple life gives forth the best music. In Paris, it was only to have money for a little food and a coffee now and then.
Q. What was your reaction when producer Larry Klein approached you with the idea to make “The Blue Room?” Why do you feel a connection to Ray Charles? Or do you?
MP: Well, I believe Larry Klein is a great thinker in his own right, and I followed his vision as best I could. “The Blue Room” is a tribute album, but it is not very usual in that it is a tribute to another album by Ray Charles, which was titled “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music.” That record set a number of standards for people. It showed the music industry that cultures really can (and already do) collide in America, and that musical audiences cannot deny that.
Q. You really made this album your own and it highlights your gorgeous voice. What was the thought process for making it your own? How do you feel the other tracks complement Ray Charles’ work?
MP: To love people and whatever they associate with the song, and then to let go and try to love yourself and what you associate with the song, and then let go again and just live in the song as best you can. Music is a sharing with an audience for me. It is the quintessential form of communication — instantaneous, immediate, unlimited, un-entrenched, or loaded, universal and personal at once.
Q. Is this a fun album to perform live? Why or why not?
MP: We are playing these arrangements live [with a string quartet rather than a full string orchestra] every show this year, and these are some of the best shows I’ve ever had, with some of the most meaningful interactions with the music I’ve ever had.
Q. Do you play guitar onstage? What instrumentation do you bring on tour with you?
MP: Yes, I play guitar and sing and have a fantastic band with me: Jon Herington, guitar; Jim Beard, keyboards; Barak Mori, bass; Darren Beckett, drums; Hiroko Taguchi, first violinist; plus local string players to flesh out the quartet which will include a second violinist, violist and cellist — we are a total of nine musicians on stage.
Q. What is your concert going to be like? What can audiences expect?
MP: An evening of beautiful music, most of which everyone will already know and hopefully love.