MELODY GARDOT: ‘My One & Only Thrill’ (Label: Verve)

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MELODY GARDOT: 'My One & Only Thrill'

When Melody Gardot became the victim of a dreadful road traffic accident that took place in her native Philadelphia in 2003 – she was knocked off her bicycle by a car doing an illegal manoeuvre – the odds were seemingly stacked against her living any kind of ‘normal’ life again. She had suffered such horrific injuries that she was left bed-ridden and severely disabled. And yet although the lifestyle that the 19-year-old college student knew seemed to be over for good, a bright new beginning awaited her that grew directly from therapy for a brain injury she had sustained. One of her doctors believed that music – both listening to and making it – could assist in the recuperation of her cerebral functioning. Still confined to her bed, Gardot – who had been a keen jazz and blues singer before her accident – started to make music again as part of her rehabilitation process and eventually recorded an EP (while still bed-bound) called ‘Some Lessons – The Bedroom Sessions.’ The CD stimulated a huge amount of interest locally in Philadelphia and it wasn’t long before her fascinating and uplifting story made it into the pages of the US national press. As Gardot’s nascent talent blossomed so too did her will to recover and heal and although she’ll probably never be free of pain, she is able to walk again (with the aid of a stick). Her music eventually found its way to Universal, who signed her up and put her in the studio with producer Glenn Barratt. The resulting debut album, 2008’s ‘Worrisome Heart’ was warmly received and established Gardot as an exciting new jazz chanteuse. A year later and the singer is back with an even more impressive set, the largely self-penned ‘My One & Only Thrill,’ expertly helmed by Joni Mitchell’s former husband, Larry Klein. The most striking feature about Gardot’s sophomore album is the extent to which she has matured as a singer since that auspicious debut. There seems to be a greater emotional depth to her smoky delivery (imagine Sarah Vaughan meets Doris Day with a hint of Peggy Lee) and at times, as on the incredibly beautiful orchestral ballad, ‘Our Love Is Easy,’ there’s almost a mesmerising cathartic quality to her performance. Certainly, Vince Mendoza’s elegant string arrangements are extremely successful in framing Gardot’s voice and function as an arresting and at times almost cinematic backdrop. Other highlights include ‘Baby I’m A Fool’; the Latin-flavoured Gallic jazz of ‘Les Etoiles’ (which Gardot sings in French) and the sultry title song, a delicate ballad that sounds like something from taken from the soundtrack to a film noir movie. Despite her tender years – she’s still only 24 – Melody Gardot possesses the assuredness, poise and gravitas of a much older and experienced performer and here she delivers a superlative album that represents not only a triumph over adversity but also suggests that the singer will have a long and successful career in front of her.
(CW) 4/5