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March 2008

Melody Gardot
Worrisome Heart
Verve

There’s the back story of Melody Gardot, the Philadelphia jazz folkie disabled in a car accident: she uses specialized seating, dark glasses and other distractions to comfort her deep pelvic fractures, photosensitivity and the autonomic nervous system dysfunction that allows her hypersensitivity to noise. Forget that. Really.

Though there’re long, lyrical, even silly allusions to her travails—looking for a man to accept all of her during the title track, the upside-down turn-around that is “Some Lessons”—the true tale of Gardot’s shining quirk is how delightful her trilling vocals and fluid melodies are; how deliciously intertwined within the soft reed sounds and quixotic violin kick and leering trumpet tone that Billie-ish voice is; how prickly her own quiet guitars and piano lines are, too. Gardot writes and plays along with old-timey twangers (“Sweet Memory”) and supple shuffling blues (“Quiet Fire”) that benefit from ye old cool jazz in that she finds tenor sax man/clarinetist Ron Kerber’s horns and clings to their sub-tone breaths. Gardot does the same to Mike Brenner’s lap steel licks on “Gone,” to Diane Monroe’s violin and Matt Cappy’s muted trumpet on “One Day.” She ups the ache and stretches her vowels on “One Day” or languishes through her tremulous stately “Love Me Like a River Does.”

But, though she plays so very well with others, if she was alone on a street corner, hooting to the moon, you’d hear the same subtle drama and dynamics. Forget the story. Desire the singer.

Originally published in March 2008
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