Cyrille Aimee returns to Vail Jazz on the heels of her 10th album release
If you Go ...
What: Cyrille Aimee.
When: Today, 5:30 and 8 p.m.
Where: Ludwig’s in Vail.
More information: http://www.vailjazz.org, 970-479-6146.
Cyrille Aimee has long-since gone the way of the gypsy. The 34-year-old grew up in the small town of Samois-sur-Seine in northern France and was constantly intrigued by the caravans of musicians and gypsies that would plant themselves in her neighborhood every summer for the annual Django Reinhardt festival.
“The Django festival was part of my life even before I wanted to be a musician,” Aimee said. “I’d go run around in the street for the festival. It was free for kids … all the other kids were running around. Little by little, I started to be interested in the music part of it.”
Stemming from a spontaneous, circus-like episode in which Aimee found herself pedaling her bike down the street with three gypsy girls piled onto it, it wasn’t long before she became an honorary member of the visiting clan.
“A couple of gypsies came over and said I had a nice bike. Three of them hopped on the bike with me, riding down a hill — one on the handlebars, one on the seat, one on the back,” said Aimee. “They became my friends. I started going into the campsite. The guys were always there playing the guitar. My friend’s brother would teach me how to play and I would teach him how to read.”
Aimee started sneaking out of the house late at night to join the gypsies around their musical campfire and developed a love for singing. By the time she was 18, she was invited to perform on “Star Academy,” the French equivalent of “American Idol.” At that point, however, she had already decided to head to New York to study jazz at Purchase College. She did not, however, grow out of her affinity for the gypsy lifestyle. Between semesters, she would bring jazz studies friends back to Europe and they traveled from city to city, performing on street corners for cash.
“We did a tour through Europe, slept on benches for a whole summer,” Aimee said. “We really didn’t have anything. We’d have to play so we could buy food. We had two guitars. My sister was playing the shakers. There was a sax player playing duets with me.”
In Italy, the crew performed at a club during a jam session. The manager was impressed.
“The guy from the club said, ‘If you play for the lunchtime crowd, we’ll feed you. Play for dinner and we’ll feed you.’”
As her friends waited in Italy, Aimee ventured to Switzerland on her own to try her vocal chords in a singing competition at the Montreux Jazz Festival. She won.
After this adventurous summer, Aimee graduated and relocated to Brooklyn, from whence she continues to travel the world performing with orchestras, ensembles, quartets and duets.
Aimee’s 10th album, “Move On, A Sondheim Adventure,” was released in February, featuring an eclectic selection from composer Stephen Sondheim’s vast songbook. Aimee appeared in Sondheim and Wynton Marsalis’ 2013 production, “A Bed and a Chair: A New York Love Story,” alongside Broadway greats such as Jeremy Jordan and Bernadette Peters, and her performance was heralded by numerous critics as a major highlight.
A Vail Jazz favorite, the French singer, accompanied by Eric Gunnison on piano, brings her sultry and theatrical stage presence to Ludwig’s Terrace at the Sonnenalp Hotel for back-to-back performances tonight. Seating is jazz club-style with full dinner and bar service available (a $30 food and beverage minimum applies). Doors open at 5 p.m. for the 5:30 p.m. performance, and at 7:30 p.m. for the 8 p.m. show. Tickets to each performance are $40. For more, visit http://www.vailjazz.org or call 970-479-6146.