Tag Archives: Melody Gardot

My Week in Beauty

TUESDAY

You may have seen this photo before but it seems the ideal one to use to illustrate my trip to Edinburgh on Tuesday night for a sumptuous dinner hosted by Estee Lauder’s press team. The reason it’s the ideal pic is that I was wearing the same dress – and just about half the journalists at the table in the exquisite Number One restaurant at the Balmoral were sporting the nail varnish I’m wearing here – Estee Lauder Pure Color Nail Lacquer in Teal Topaz (£14; www.esteelauder.co.uk).

The dinner was a 30th birthday celebration – not of a person, but of Lauder’s now-iconic serum, Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair, now going by the name of Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Recovery Complex (£41 ) and reformulated to harness the latest research in genetic ageing while holding true to its original mission of reducing the appearance of past damage from environmental assaults and preventing future damage.

While the press girls had us under the spell of champagne and Michelin-starred food, they also gave us a preview of their summer make-up. Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess 2012 – The Capri Collection goes on sale at Jenners, in Edinburgh this month, before it hits counters everywhere else in May – and Edinburgh ladies who passed the beauty squad post-dinner will undoubtedly be forming an orderly queue… We all had a play with the products – and went into the night smelling divine, thanks to the Bronze Goddess Luminous Liquid Bronzer (£27) we were trying on our hands and forearms….

WEDNESDAY

Eugh, I felt a wreck on Wednesday after a particularly disturbed sleep in a Holiday Inn
Express which had previously seemed very comfortable and quiet. I was awake every hour thanks to a combination of the racket coming from the room opposite, the noise of traffic on the stairs through the wall from me and my usual first-night restlessness when away from my own bed.

Anyway, the result was that despite having fused Kim Novak and Veronica Lake influences the night before, I looked more like Simone Signoret – at least in the heavy-lidded eye department – the morning after. Only one thing for it: Clarins Skin-Smoothing Eye Mask (£29.50; www.clarins.co.uk). This has turned out to be an absolute must-have for me lately as it seems to be the only way of waking up my eyes when the lids weigh heavy on them ..

THURSDAY

I took the train to London on Thursday for a quick visit to interview the wonderful singer-songwriter – and fashion plate – Melody Gardot whose new CD, The Absence (Decca), comes out at the end of May. Since I last met her three years ago, Melody has visited more countries than I’ve probably managed in the last 15 years – and she has absorbed musical and style influences wherever she’s been.

When she opened the door of her hotel suite to me, she was a vision in a fringed Lanvin dress and Moroccan-style turban into which her still long (she assured me) locks were tucked. The turban and 1940s-style shades were very Gloria Swanson-in-Sunset Boulevard – and I told her so. Apparently, I was the second person in a day to compare the 27-year-old to the great Gloria (the other comparison had been a vocal one) – but she couldn’t visualise Swanson, so before I left, I had to help find a photo..

Anyway, Melody’s make-up – as ever – was exquisite  (see the video below too); perfectly defined eyebrows sat above the retro specs, Hollywood red lips offset her newly nut-brown skin and her nails were painted a metallic sand shade which offset the camel colour of her turban and wrap. Having been on a train for five hours, I felt bedraggled by comparison but had at least made my own nod to glamour in the form of my Chanel’d nails (the April shade which has been my favourite for months now). I painted them on the train – a calculated risk, but worth taking since I had my handy Rituals Nail Varnish Corrector Pen (£6.90; from John Lewis and www.rituals.com)  with me…

SATURDAY

A girls’ night out for my friend Colette’s birthday and the occasion to wear a kaftan-style top I had exhumed from the depths of my wardrobe during a major spring clean gave me the perfect excuse to move on from April to, no not the May or June shades of Chanel nail polish – but one named Distraction.

Chanel Le Vernis in Distraction (£18) is part of Rose Ultimes de Chanel, a mini collection, coming out on May 11, of lip glosses and nail varnishes based around a pink theme. I have totally fallen for this gorgeous coral shade which is extremely pretty and very retro. And it went a treat with my top (shown below, in photo with my pal Lizzy) which has multi-coloured (including coral), Sergeant Pepper-style, frocking.  With two coats, it’s perfect against pale skin like mine .. Goodbye April, hello Distraction!

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Top That!


I just got an invitation through the mails: “Your presence requested this evening – it’s formal. Top hat, white tie and tails …” Ah, it was so much easier for men like Irving Berlin, who wrote this, or Fred Astaire, who sang it. But for us gals, trying to decide what to wear on a night-out can be a nightmare – especially when there’s little to inspire in the shops.  Perhaps it’s time to take a leaf out of such style-leaders as Sarah Jessica Parker (above, in Dior Couture hat), and turn to men’s formal wear for inspiration. Of course, she wasn’t the first:

Marlene Dietrich sported top hat, white tie and tails (plus corsage) at a Hollywood ball in 1929, and often returned to the look – giving it a feminine twist in sparkly white, and investing it with even more sex appeal and glamour in Blonde Venus in 1933.  Just look at the effect on Cary Grant!

Dietrich was not the only 1930s style icon who cross-dressed in a memorable fashion.. Josephine Baker, the snake-hipped darling of La Revue Negre in Paris, may not have been French but she shared Dietrich’s continental sense of playing with expectations, and had a similarly daring fashion outlook:

One of the most stylish young women I’ve met is the wonderful jazz singer Melody Gardot who shares my passion for old movies . When she’s not channelling Lauren Bacall, Veronica Lake or another film noir heroine, she has something of a French look about her – check out the Breton stripes with the top hat:

By strange coincidence, Melody’s stablemate at Decca, Madeleine Peyroux (another old movie and old jazz fan) was photographed looking stunning in top hat and tails (like a sexy circus ringleader) for her last album, Bare Bones.


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November Jazz Reviews

Judy Carmichael, who wowed her Glasgow audience on Sunday night.

JUDY CARMICHAEL, CITY HALLS RECITAL ROOM, GLASGOW, 29.11.09

A touch of New York sparkle came to the City Halls Recital Room on Sunday night when the vivacious pianist Judy Carmichael made her Scottish debut as part of Jazz International’s busy winter programme. With her witty and engaging repartee, Carmichael had won her audience over before she even began playing, and it was clear from her fast-swinging, playful opener, Lulu’s Back in Town, that her sense of humour translated fluently into her music. Like the late, great Fats Waller – who, to judge by the way she occasionally seemed to tickle the ivories, producing little flurries of notes, is a hero – she has the lightest, most delicate of touches and a warm, rich tone.

Carmichael, who was nicknamed Stride by no less a jazz piano legend than Count Basie, cut quite a dash as she tapped her leopard-print stilettoes to keep time and bobbed her blonde curls along with the music. She has made a name for herself as a purveyor of this early style of jazz piano, but such numbers as an evocative, bluesy Lazy River (and, no, she’s not related to its composer, Hoagy) and her own Boisedale Blues, which had a rollicking boogie-woogie section in the middle, demonstrated that she’s more than a one-trick pony. She even sang on a few tunes; apparently a recent addition to her CV.

That said, it was her Earl Hines and Fats-flavoured output which most delighted the enthusiastic crowd, and it was a treat to hear such rarely exhumed gems as Love Is Just Around the Corner, Christopher Columbus and Gladyse being played with such affection and panache.

MADELEINE PEYROUX, QUEEN’S HALL, EDINBURGH, 25.11.09

Madeleine Peyroux has some following in Edinburgh. The Queen’s Hall was packed for the singer’s first concert in the capital in four years, and her welcome couldn’t have been warmer. In fact, the Queen’s Hall, with its relatively intimate, cabaret-style, atmosphere, proved to be the perfect venue for a 90-minute programme described by the 36-year-old American as “booze, blues and ballads”.

Peyroux has come a long way since her last appearance in Edinburgh. Back then, she barely spoke to the audience and looked uncomfortable when all eyes were on her. On Wednesday, she was ebullient, chatty, relaxed and very witty indeed. A handful of characteristically sad songs into the concert, she said: “I’ve made a pact with myself – that I’ll do two happy songs in my show…. Here is my happy break-up song – I’m Alright”.

That number, a sort of upbeat, uptempo torch song, was one of many which benefitted from the top-notch quartet that Peyroux had with her. Given her propensity for playing about with songs to the extent that they are sometimes unrecognisable, the presence of a band (including Hammond organist-pianist Gary “Liberace” Versace) playing the arrangements from her records acted as a sort of anchor and kept the songs from straying too far from the familiar recorded versions – though Peyroux always takes it to the limit.

There’s still something slightly unsettling about listening to Peyroux live: while her albums (notably the current one, Bare Bones, which was not much featured) are sublime; her choices – of notes, of how far behind in the lyrics to let herself fall, etc – are far from predictable, and there’s still, in the way she twists final notes and increases their volume, hints of the dying Billie Holiday about her voice.

MELODY GARDOT, QUEEN’S HALL, EDINBURGH, 18.11.09

She may have kept a busy Queen’s Hall waiting before she appeared onstage on Wednesday night, but, boy, did singer-songwriter Melody Gardot make up for lost time. Showing absolutely no sign of the physical frailty that regularly bothers her, the glamorous 24-year-old – with the Mae West sense of humour, and figure to match – sang continuously for 90 minutes and easily filled the hall when she performed her bluesier numbers.

Mind you, it didn’t start out too promisingly. Gardot’s opening song, The Rain (probably the weakest song on her superb current album, My One and Only Thrill), took a while to get going because she spent the first few moments onstage on her hands and knees doing something New Age-y with sand (only the front row and balcony seats could have seen what was going on), and then the song was preceded by a lot of seemingly random plucking of piano and bass strings, and clashing of cymbals while Gardot gyrated against the keyboard.

Once all that was out of the way, though, the concert was a revelation: here was a singer who sounded better live than on her sublime CD; her gorgeous, pitch-perfect, effortlessly agile vocals a joy whether on such exquisite ballads as Baby I’m a Fool, If The Stars Were Mine and Deep Within the Corners of My Mind or on raunchy blues-style numbers.

Gardot really came into her own once she dispensed with the theatrics and the slight aloofness of the first ten minutes and began chatting with the increasingly adoring audience.

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Musicians’ Movie Talk

Over the last however-many years of interviewing and socialising with jazz musicians of all ages and backgrounds, I’ve come to notice a certain leit-motif when it comes to their interests: many of them, like me, are avid old-movie buffs.

The thought had occurred before but it was rammed home last week when I met the young jazz singer-songwriter Melody Gardot. The way this girl speaks is as eloquent as her lyric-writing, and she has a way with an analogy that Raymond Chandler would have envied. Sitting, like teenagers, on her bed in her west London hotel, we talked about fashion, nail polish – the important stuff – before going on to the problems she has overcome since she was knocked off her bike by a hit-and-run Jeep a few years ago.

I had to ask if the long, wavy, peekaboo blonde hair was inspired by one of my favourite stars, Veronica  Lake (it wasn’t), and there ensued a chat about old movies. Gardot, it turns out, is a big Groucho Marx devotee, and she certainly knows her stuff – she even launched into an impersonation of him singing in A Night at the Opera. “I love you very mucho…”  Although she has trouble remembering things, certain movie moments haven’t slipped through the sieve that is her memory- and these are mostly from Fellini and Hitchcock films.

Being an aficionado of old movies is a trait that Gardot has in common with at least two of her label-mates: the first time I interviewed the singer-pianist Diana Krall, she told me that she loved the old MGM musicals (she had just been watching Vincente Minnelli’s The Band Wagon in her hotel), and had been brought up watching classic films on TV.

There were certainly clues to her love of film in the songs that she recorded on her early albums: Dancing in the Dark (from the afore-mentioned The Band Wagon), I’ll String Along With You (My Dream Is Yours)  and  Let’s Face the Music And Dance (Follow the Fleet). Of course, old movies offer rich pickings for anyone on the look-out for great songs.

Singer Madeleine Peyroux was similarly raised on a diet of great Hollywood movies. In her case, Frank Capra had made a big impression with Mr Smith Goes to Washington – and James Stewart and Gary Cooper were her two favourite stars.

Of the Scottish jazz musicians with whom I’ve had great movie conversations, piano ace Brian Kellock and velvet-voiced singer Todd Gordon stand out; while the great American double-act of Marty Grosz (guitar) and Ken Peplowski (clarinet/tenor sax) is just as entertaining in a dinner table discussion of 1940s comedy character actors as it is onstage playing tunes from that era.

Clearly, for some of us, a love of jazz goes hand-in-hand with a love of old films. In many cases, it’s the result – initially anyway – of a parent’s influence. And let’s face it, with jazz especially, if you don’t start off being introduced to something that has perhaps been carefully chosen for you, it could well put you off for life..

Maybe the joint interest in jazz and old movies arises out of a predisposition to past pop culture – and possibly a teenage tendency towards individualism.  Who knows? All I can say is that the best conversations about old movies that I’ve had have been with jazzers. And I’m sure it’s no coincidence that my favourite jazz musicians are the ones who love the same comedy masters as me: Preston Sturges, Billy Wilder, Woody Allen, the Marx Brothers. After all, in both jazz and comedy, timing is everything…

* Read my full interview with Melody Gardot in The Herald Magazine next Saturday, June 13.

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