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Charito Meets Michel Legrand: Watch What Happens

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The decision to partner Philippine-born Charito with French-born Michel Legrand was an inspired move. It not only blends the jazz genre with cabaret; it features two unique vocal timbres and opens our ears to various cultural influences. Charito is now based in Tokyo; Legrand, who has spent considerable time living and working in the USA, is again home in Paris.

Their album, initially released in Europe in 2008, consists of 13 Legrand originals. He sings and/or plays on three of them. There’s a rich, warm string ensemble behind Charito, plus a trumpeter (doubling on flugelhorn?) and a tenorist (doubling on flute?) playing obligatos or filling gaps very tastefully each time the fiddles are used. Pardon the ambiguities, but the album is woefully lacking in details. The only other musician properly identified is Alain Mayeras, who wrote all the arrangements and plays piano on ten tracks not featuring Legrand. Alain’s backing of Charito on the combo version of “I Will Wait For You” reveals Mayeras’ affinity for jazz phrasing, but he gets little chance to display it elsewhere.

As a jazz vocalist, Charito is a force to be reckoned with. She shows instinctive jazzoir faire by holding a swinging conversation (four bars at a time) with the uncredited tenorist. Yet, with just three tracks, Legrand, the consummate jazz comper and jazz singer, very nearly steals the album. On “Summer Me, Winter Me,” a bright bossa, Michel comes on strong in the intro, and when his voice is first heard, reveals a highly personal scat. “Quand On S’Aime,” a delightful Gallic scat swinger, builds most satisfyingly. Along the way he scats a tricky line in unison with his piano. As for his economical solo piano backing on “Pieces of Dreams,” he demonstrates how less can be more.

Charito is heard on each track, which is fair and balanced: it’s her CD; it’s his music. Charito shows ample signs of becoming more mature even though she tends toward occasional flatness. She loses the battle with those treacherous, naked pick-up notes that ask the ascendant question, “What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life?” She should listen to those same notes as played by the Harmon-muted trumpeter who precedes her. But how can you fault such a hard-working trouper, unafraid of the challenging material by Michel Legrand?

Originally Published