• U.S.


2 minute read
David E. Thigpen

WHEN POP MUSIC AND JAZZ come together, it is seldom on equal footing. More often than not, musicians opt either for the predictable, ingratiating styles of pop (Kenny G.) or for ostentatious, cerebral techniques lifted from jazz (Steely Dan). What they get is slick, one-dimensional music, a bogus hybrid that has all the kick of a wine spritzer.

Vanessa Daou’s new album, Zipless, shows that it doesn’t have to be that way. Built on piano, synthesizers and Daou’s mesmerizing, Billie Holiday-like vocals, Zipless strikes an exquisite balance between pop and jazz by weaving together the strengths of both styles. With Daou’s husband Peter playing all the instruments, the songs flow along on smooth, toe-tapping grooves punctuated by saxophone and piano solos and spiced with surprising touches like gongs and kettle drums. With Vanessa’s limpid voice floating above it all, the music conjures the cool mood of an urban nightscape.

The lyrics are mostly about sex, yet they have a literate, sometimes explicit edge; they are drawn from poetry written by Peter’s aunt, Erica Jong, the feminist author. Dear Anne Sexton, for example, takes the form of letters between two women who shared the same man. It gets racy, but never formulaic.

Vanessa comes from the Virgin Islands, where she collected Leonard Cohen records. Peter grew up in Beirut listening to the Voice of America, where he first heard Coltrane. Inspired by these influences, the pair have avoided the usual pitfalls and may have saved jazz-pop from its near death experience.

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