Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Don't Call Me the New Norah Jones; Eight Years Ago, Madeleine Peyroux Was about to Hit the Big Time. Then She Disappeared and the Jazz World Had to Settle for Second Best. but Now She's Back

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Don't Call Me the New Norah Jones; Eight Years Ago, Madeleine Peyroux Was about to Hit the Big Time. Then She Disappeared and the Jazz World Had to Settle for Second Best. but Now She's Back

Article excerpt

Byline: JANE CORNWELL

PAINTINGS of great jazz divas line the walls of the Treibhaus, an intimate jazz venue in Innsbruck, Austria: Ella Fitzgerald, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday. Tonight's audience crane towards the stage, drawn by a voice so smoky and seductive, so languorously delivered, that it could belong to Lady Day herself. Jazz and blues classics feel soulful; songs by Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen are freshly sepia-tinted. Then, suddenly, an original.

"This is a song for anyone who's wasting time," says Madeleine Peyroux, acoustic guitar slung over her crumpled trouser suit.

"It's called Don't Wait Too Long."

Peyroux can talk. Eight years ago the American-born, Paris-raised chanteuse was poised to hit the big time after her debut album, Dreamlands, sold a quarter of a million copies. Along with critical praise for its stripped-down blend of jazz, blues and old-time pop came high-profile tours, supporting Sarah McLaughlin and Cesaria Evora, and high-profile fans, including Mel Gibson and kd lang.

Before Norah Jones took to the top of the charts with Come Away with Me in 2002, Peyroux was the bright white hope of commercial jazz, the genre now bustling with Cullums and Kralls.

And then, nothing. Peyroux buckled under the weight of expectation.

Her beautiful, pitch-perfect voice gave out, a cyst was discovered on her vocal cords, and she disappeared.

The music industry shrugged and turned to Norah Jones and her pianoled pop-jazz hybrid to revive its sagging fortunes. But now, Peyroux, 31, is back, jazzier than Jones ever was, with Careless Love (Universal), a quietly sexy stroll through some timeless material. Don't Wait Too Long, the album's only original, happens to have been co-written with Jones's writer Jesse Harris, an old friend who'd offered Peyroux songs that later appeared on Come Away with Me.

Jones's erstwhile keyboardist, Sam Yahel, is touring with Peyroux, backingher alongside a double bassist, and managing her European dates.

He was there, too, when Peyroux walked off the set of Parkinson earlier this month, in alleged frustration with producers who wanted her version of Leonard Cohen's Dance Me to the End of Love (a song about the Holocaust) to be more "upbeat".

Peyroux has an ambivalent attitude to success. At times, the intense, slightly gawky figure gives the impression that she would be just as happy to return to her roots as a street busker. Just last week, back home in New York, she joined a trombonist in the subway for an impromptu jam.

"Busking is good for the soul," she says after the show, as she smokes a succession of cigarettes. "It's the purest form of communication. Even being stopped by the cops doesn't dampen a day on the street." The eldest daughter of a New Orleansborn drama professor and a French teacher, Peyroux grew up on a rich musical diet - from Fats Waller and Johnny Cash to Peter, Paul and Mary. …

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