Blue Notes

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 August, 2010, 12:00am

Jazz artists who sell a lot of CDs are rare, and it is accordingly inevitable that when one hits the big time and becomes established, anybody who remotely resembles them will be hailed as 'the new so and so'.

So it is with Diana Krall, and Chantal Chamberland is one of the victims of this pigeon-holing. This seems particularly unjust given that she appears to have little in common with her fellow Canadian chanteuse, other than a passport and some shared repertoire.

Krall is first and foremost a serious jazz pianist who turned out to be more commercially viable as a singer. Chamberland plays rhythm guitar capably enough, but is a singer who accompanies herself, rather than an instrumental virtuoso, and takes no solos.

However, there is some fine playing on her latest album on Evosound, Serendipity Street. Chamberland's husky, early-hours-of-the-morning vocals intertwine with some fine alto saxophone work from Paul White, while co-producer Bob Doidge supplies some plaintive flugelhorn parts as well as adding Gallic accordion touches and occasional cello.

Chamberland's guitar is sympathetically backed by a piano trio comprising John Kenyon at the keyboard, Steve Pelletier on acoustic bass and Dan Lockwood on drums.

Serendipity Street is a well-balanced set of 16 tunes. From the pop repertoire we have Cyndi Lauper's Time After Time - which has impeccable jazz credentials, having been a staple of Miles Davis' sets in the 1980s - and Janis Ian's At Seventeen.

Two songs Chamberland composed herself, the opening It's You and Across the Room, and both fit well with the rest of the material. One inclusion that appears eccentric is Willie Nelson's Crazy, but his music has considerable jazz content, and Crazy, shorn of the Nashvilleisms of his own and Patsy Cline's versions, emerges as the late-night bluesy tune it always had the potential to be.

Otherwise Chamberland sticks with the standards, but brings a freshness to each of her interpretations. The range of her pitch is narrow but she has a way of making a song her own.

Two of her choices here are brave - Billie Holiday's God Bless the Child, and At Last, written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren, but essentially owned by Etta James since her epic 1960 interpretation. Of the two, God Bless the Child comes off better. Chamberland's intimate delivery has more in common with Holiday's quiet intensity than James' powerful but more histrionic side.

Take Three Chantal Chamberland has released several albums in Canada, all currently available from The Other Woman (2008, Governess Music): Nina Simone inspires an album on which a full horn section turns up the voltage on Chamberland's normally lower-key nightclub delivery. Dripping Indigo (2005, Chantal Chamberland): from Hoagy Carmichael and Cole Porter to the Bee Gees, Chamberland captures the atmosphere of her nightclub performances on this eclectic set. This is Our Time (2002, Chantal Chamberland): Chamberland's debut, a small group recording on which she demonstrates her ability to find additional dimensions in songs strongly associated with other artists.