I don’t know where I heard about Zaz, but I’m so happy that I did.
This French chanteuse is incredible. Her voice is powerful and exuberant, and she obviously enjoys belting out a variety of songs on her latest release, “Recto Verso.”
Zaz was born in the center of France as Isabelle Geffroy, to a teacher mother and a father who worked for an electric company. She received a formal music education in both music theory and singing at the CIAM in Bordeaux. She played with various bands at festivals worldwide and then moved to Paris. There, she engaged in grueling cabaret singing stints of up to five hours straight, seven days a week. If that income wasn’t adequate, she’d make up the shortfall by busking in Montmartre.
“Recto Verso” is all in French, but that is not a deterrent for non-French speakers, of which I am one. You can enjoy this music for her great voice and bouncy rhythms. I looked up the lyrics in English, and I must say I got “lost in translation!”
The opening song, “On Ira” (in the below video) is a worldwide journey from Harlem, Manhattan to Russia and much in between. “Comme Ci, Comme Ça” has a very “Paris Combo” feel to it and bubbles along. There are a few slow numbers, where Zaz’s voice is haunting and anguished—“La Lessive, Si” and “Si Je Perds” are some. “Oublie Loulou” reminds me of Django Reinhardt, and “Nous Debout” is very French pop.
Zaz cites her influences as Antonio Vivaldi, Ella Fitzgerald, Richard Bona (from Cameroon) and a host of Latin and Cuban rhythms, so it’s understandable that her own songs should also encompass a variety of styles. Now I’m going to get her eponymously titled first album which has also received rave reviews.