You are here
Home > Arts > PREVIEW: Improvising and Connecting – Cyrille Aimée at The Dakota

PREVIEW: Improvising and Connecting – Cyrille Aimée at The Dakota

The award-winning French jazz singer Cyrille Aimée, who performs at The Dakota on March 19. Photo by Viktor Hlavatovic.

Cyrille Aimée often talks about her childhood, growing up in a little village on the outskirts of Paris (Samois sur Seine), near where jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt used to live. Her mother was from the Dominican Republic, and Aimée grew up with a great deal of salsa, merengue and bachata music in the house, and much dancing among the children.

It was when hanging out with the local Romani that she learned to love improvised music, a way, she says, “of always honoring the present moment.”

In 2017, Aimée did a TEDx Talk — in French, with English subtitles — “Dare to Improvise,” on improvisation in music and in life:

Her basic point is that in life in general, just like in music we are constantly improvising, and her overall message: “jump in the water, don’t overthink it; it’s all about connection.”

It was among the Romani that she also first fell in love with jazz, with Stéphane Grappelli and swing music, as well as Django. Once Aimée found her way to New York, she would add influences still clear in her singing, including Ella Fitzgerald, Bobby McFerrin, and Chet Baker.

Aimée has been widely honored: winning the Montreux Jazz Festival Competition in 2007 and the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Competition in 2012; she was also a finalist in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition in 2010. Her cover of Stephen Sondheim’s “Marry Me a Little” was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2019.

A promotional photo of French jazz (and more) singer Cyrille Aimée. Photo by Colville Heskey.

Aimée is coming to The Dakota on Tuesday, March 19, for one show, performance at 7:00 pm. She will almost certainly feature songs from her new album, A Fleur de Peau, which is being released March 8 by Whirlwind Recordings. While many of her earlier albums offered creative new understandings of old and new classics (from Sondheim to Edith Piaf to Michael Jackson), the new album is mostly Aimée singing her own compositions. She explains the change as a simple reflection of the circumstances: during the Pandemic she had a lot of time to write. She reports that she has been working on this album for many years, and is very excited to have it finally come out.

In music as in life, improvisation: Aimée wants each album to be a new challenge, and a response to where she is now. She has said: “I am still looking for my voice.” She wants to sing the songs that she will enjoy, with the confidence – based on years of performing – that when her work is authentic, reflecting what is in her, the audience will like it. From her first time singing for others among the Romani near her village, she has loved the way that her singing can bring smiles to others.

For Aimée, it is not about some sort of abstract perfection in the music; it is about connecting with others. She says that when one is honest, vulnerable, human, it gives the listeners permission to be that way, too.

Cyrille Aimée performs at The Dakota in Minneapolis, MN on Tuesday, March 19 at 7 PM. Doors open: 5:30 PM.

Brian Bix