When someone like Howard Stone, lover of all things jazz and founder of the Vail Jazz Foundation, says a 27-year-old French musician is well on her way to becoming "the most important jazz singer of her generation," it's best you heed his advice, and listen to the singer he's referring to: Cyrille Aimee. This playful, beautiful woman has a voice to match. With a head full of bouncy curls and big blue eyes, Aimee becomes even more charming when she opens her mouth. "Her voice has a very distinctive sound that combines the raw quality of Billie Holiday, with the wild flare of a gypsy and a sweet tender side when she sings standards and bossa nova," Stone said. " She has her own style when scatting, which is very compelling, and she isn't locked into a musical box - she is daring and will sing unaccompanied CCR's (Creedence Clearwater Revival's) 'Fortunate Son' with her loop pedal and the next tune may be a jazz standard or something from Edith Piaf."Aimee and Brazilian guitarist Diego Figueiredo will perform together at the 18th annual Vail Jazz Party, taking place Thursday night through Monday at the Vail Marriott and at the Jazz Tent at Vail Square in Lionshead. The duo will perform Friday night at 7:30 p.m. during the weekend's opening set, as well as on Sunday during a late-night set and on Monday afternoon at 2:10 p.m. No plan BStone has seen Aimee perform four times over the last 3 or 4 years, he said."She has blown me away each time," he said, which is why he decided to bring her to this weekend's Jazz Party. Friday evening will mark Aimee's first time performing here in Vail, though she has performed in Aspen before, she said. She recently returned to Brooklyn, where she lives, after spending much of the summer performing in Europe. She grew up in France - in Samois-sur-Seine, a small commune in the north central part of the country that's famous for its gypsy jazz influence - but moved to New York in order to be close to Manhatten, which she calls "the best place to learn about jazz.""The level of musicianship in this city is incredible," she said. "Going to a club there is a lesson every time."It's fitting that Stone uses the word "gypsy" to describe Aimee, considering she spent much of her childhood with gypsies."In my hometown, every summer, gypsies from all across Europe would come in their caravans to honor Django Reinhardt during a festival in his name that is held there every end of June," she said. Aimee learned how to play guitar from one gypsy, and in exchange she taught him to read. She fell in love with gypsy culture, but most of all with the music, she said."One day I learned a song, sang it around the campfire and that was it," she said. "I knew I wanted to sing forever. I was 14 and I never once even thought of a plan B."Loops of layersWith a French father and a mother from the Dominican Republic, it's no surprise Aimee's music has a very multicultural, worldy feel. She sings in French and Spanish, but that's not all."I also sing a bit in Portuguese, since I tour a lot in Brazil with Diego Figueiredo," she said. "But I sing mostly in English. My favorite songs are in English - I love the way the language flows."Along with her ability to sing in four languages with ease, Stone respects Aimee's "willingness to take risks by combining non-traditional jazz repertoire with jazz classics." Stone was also awestruck by her use of the loop pedal during her performance, something she said she'll do during at least one of her shows in Vail. The loop pedal is a device that allows Aimee to overdub her voice in real-time so that she can create a multi-layered texture - singing, percussion and lyrics - for a truly one-of-a-kind performance. Watch Aimee perform CCR's "Fortunate Son" on YouTube, and you'll understand Stone's awe. Aimee said she'd always dreamt of a way to loop her voice live and sing over it. "It's the only way singers can actually make chords with their voice," she said. "When I realized such a machine existed I immediately bought it. I usually start with a bass line, then some beat box, then I stack up harmonies and then I sing the melody. It's a lot of fun, but unlike improvisation, there is no room for mistakes. If you make a mistake, it is looped every time."After Vail, her tour schedule is extremely full, with dates in New York and the rest of the U.S. before she heads to Australia and then Isreal. She'll perform with her Surreal Band in the Dominican Republic in December and then perform in France in March, which is when her new album will likely drop; she describes it as "very different than my previous ones." "I am very excited for this coming year," she said. And Vail is excited to meet Aimee. High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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