Some of you may have noticed that I don’t spend a lot of time talking about individual songs when I review albums. Occasionally, but not a lot. Perhaps that’s because I grew up listening to LPs instead of 45rpm singles, and I tend to appreciate an album as a whole, complete statement from the artist. (Perhaps that’s why I get so annoyed at albums where I like one song, and the rest is dreck.) In dealing with this Aimee-Jo Benoit album, Borjoner, I have to mention the wonderful opener, a surprisingly jazzy cover of Nirvana’s “All Apologies.” It’s really good, distinctive and different in a pure sort of way as if some fictional original original ORIGINAL version from way back sounded exactly like this.
Aimee-Jo Benoit and her jazz trio–drummer Robin Tufts, pianist Sheldon Zandboer and bassist Simon Fisk–have a definite sound. In a year marked by what feels like a thousand female jazz singers backed by simple trios and quartets, Benoit and Trio Velocity use the pure piano-led jazz trio deep into crossover territory. It’s the beat and the rhythm, mostly, and the steady, quiet momentum these four people create, that brings this music to the center. That’s not a bad thing, i.e. trying to please everyone. Instead, Aimee-Jo Benoit and Trio Velocity camp out at the top of a hill where they can see everything and go in any direction they choose.
Aimee-Jo Benoit has a smooth, somewhat reserved delivery–she’s thinking about emotions from the past rather than trying to relive them in front of an audience for a cheap dramatic effect. It’s an interesting and complex approach that contributes greatly to the whole, that sense of always moving forward. Next to that lovely and even demeanor, I have to admit that I’m awestruck by her choice of covers in Borjoner (which is French for “to put out buds”). Aside from that amazing Nirvana song, Benoit explores Daniel Lanois’ “I Love You,” Burt Bacharach’s “Alfie” and even “Norwegian Wood.” I tend to have a rule against Beatles covers–and that rule is based on “why do you need to do this?”–but Benoit is such a reductionist, an architect who specializes in the most imaginative remodels, that for once I have to nod approvingly.
Her bio starts off with this summary: “I am a vocalist, collaborator and thinker based in Calgary, Alberta. Over the past decade, I have become well-known for my uncommon tone and unique approach to the jazz genre.” That’s very accurate, especially for a press release, and I can’t help but listen to Borjoner with the feeling that this is all very new, albeit in a very subtle manner, and it helps me stay focused and enthusiastic about the state of contemporary jazz. Highly recommended.