“That was my first job, ever,” said Madeleine Peyroux to a small audience of about 30 people sitting in the tiny back room of Barbès, the French-themed bar in Brooklyn. She was referring to the woman holding an empty plastic beer pitcher to collect money for the band. Peyroux was a 15-year-old skipping school in Paris when she broke into the jazz life by passing the hat for a group of street musicians she’d befriended. In time she was allowed to sing and she’s been doing it ever since.
Peyroux was using a few unannounced evening sets at Barbès to go through material from her new album, Half the Perfect World, with bassist Matthew Penman and keyboardist Sean Weyland. Wearing jeans and sneakers and sitting with her vintage Martin guitar, Peyroux played a casually stunning set, calling out keys to the musicians and joking with the audience between songs.