Pull up a chair - no, that one in the corner. Pour yourself a glass of the good stuff, then press play. From its opening notes and tender, nicotine-and-whisky vocals, Florence Joelle's beautiful new album, Life Is Beautiful If You Let It, will draw you into a world of exotic enchantment like a cool wind on a sultry night.
With her first two albums - Kiss Of Fire and Stealing Flowers – Paris-born, London-based Joelle created a musical subgenre all of her own. It's a Franco-Anglo polychromatic potpourri of Latin and classic jazz, vintage and contemporary blues, gypsy folk, fifties R&B rock'n'roll and Parisian torch song. There was wine and there was reefer, there were parties and protests, pain and pleasure, desolation and joy - everything that makes life life.
"Life is beautiful, baby. If you let it." That's what Jimmy Scott, the legendary jazz singer, used to tell her back when it was part of her job to show him around and take him to press interviews whenever he was in London. She wrote those words down and for years she kept them in her purse to remind herself. After he died in 2014 she wrote this song for him. Gentle and dreamy, equal parts darkness and light, it's a slow, sweet, mirrorballed, late-night gem about looking back and looking ahead. In this song, which showcases her brilliant new band at its best - delicate, heartbreaking guitar; evocative flute and clarinet, sensual rhythm section - Joelle brings her unique vocal qualities to the world of traditional jazz, receiving the baton from her friend and hero, and carrying it forward with polish and verve.
Life is Beautiful, in fact, is her most jazz-focused album to date. A serious record collector and jazz historian before she made the move into performing, Joelle interprets the best of the old music she knows so intimately with deep respect and reverence - but also with a contemporary instinct for spontaneity and playful inventiveness. Billie Holliday and Eartha Kitt will sometimes come to mind but it's a unique and evocative voice that emerges.
The album opens with an Angel too - a lovely midtempo jazz original dedicated to Joelle's late father, Angel Marcel. Her voice tender and evocative, an innocence beneath the smoke, its intimacy pulls you close. It's just one of many gems - like Sleepy Eyes, a Calypso ode to another love, the movie idol Robert Mitchum; or the fiery hot Here Comes The Lady - the "white lady", cocaine; the dark and bluesy One Step Forward, Two Steps Back with its harmonica intro and first-class band; the mad-as-hell-and-not-going-to-take-it Two And Two Don't Make Five; and the delicious closing track, Wake Up Swinging, which is everything you'd guess it would be from the title. And the band - Thierry Courault, guitar, Ian Marcus, double bass, flute, clarinet, Matt Jackson, drums & percussion, with guests Rory More (electric organ) and James Lawrence (trombone) will blow you away.
So there you have it. Life is beautiful, if you let it, baby. All those shades of light and dark, dust and stardust, are what make it that way. Sometimes it'll knock you down, other times it'll lift you up. It might be as light as champagne, wild as absinthe, dark as the best whisky, but it'll keep you coming back for more.
Paris-born, Florence Joelle is a blues and jazz singer, songwriter, harmonica player, and recording artist based in London, where she is a favourite performer across the city.
With her first two albums, Kiss Of Fire and Stealing Flowers, she has created a musical subgenre all of her own. It's a Franco-Anglo polychromatic potpourri of Latin and classic jazz, vintage and contemporary blues, gypsy folk, fifties R&B rock n roll and Parisian torch song. Released worldwide on 29 July 2016 through her own label, Zoltan Records, and distributed by Ace Records, her third album, Life Is Beautiful If You Let It, includes a mixture of Florence’s originals, and three covers sang in her native French.