The Big Top, Cheltenham Jazz Festival 3/5/2012

Melody Gardot’s back story – she was the victim of a debilitating road traffic accident in 2003 and turned to music as therapy to help repair the severe neural trauma she had suffered – is a remarkable thing in itself. Even more remarkable is her transformation so quickly into an international star whose unique voice possesses a masterful range of expression, depth of quality and maturity that belies her twenty seven years. Five years ago, no one knew who Melody Gardot was but today – one Grammy nomination and two albums down the line, plus a third, ‘The Absence,’ imminent – she packs out venues around the world.

Besides her captivating voice, there’s undoubtedly an enigmatic, almost Garbo-esque magnetism about the persona of Gardot – perhaps it’s those customary dark glasses she sports, which add to the mystique, and tonight, attired in an elegant long dress, she sports a turban that added a Carmen Miranda (minus the fruit) touch to her apparel. The image certainly chimes with the Latin-tinged material of her new album, which is packed with beguiling bossa novas and exotic Andalusian arias.

Backing her is an excellent band, comprising acoustic guitar, stand up bass (courtesy of the brilliant Charnett Moffat, a recording artist in his own right), drums, percussion, two backing vocalists, and most striking of all in terms of the sonorities it provides, is a lone cello.

Bardot breezes through the multi-cultural material from her new album – which includes the samba-esque ‘Mira,’ ‘Impossible Love,’ and the African-inflected ‘Yemanja’ with its lively call-and-response refrains – and the vibe she creates is infectious. She also includes material form her previous two albums, ‘Worrisome Heart,’ and ‘My One & Only Thrill’: from the latter she features a wonderfully intimate version of ‘Baby, I’m A Fool’ and the plaintive ballad, ‘Goodnite.’ The music’s beautifully rendered and Gardot’s voice is an exquisite thing to both hear and feel – and unlike orthodox jazz singers, she makes good use, too, of sonic wizardry (such as reverb and echo effects), which certainly add to the intoxicating aural drama she creates.

Melody Gardot on record can be spellbinding but live – judged on the evidence of tonight’s show at Cheltenham – she brings another dimension altogether: one that is at times breathtakingly transcendent. Truly remarkable. 


Read a review of MELODY GARDOT’S ‘My One & Only Thrill’ here: 

Look out for a review of Melody’s new album ‘The Absence’ soon at SJF.