If you’re a rabid but conservative Piaf fan, don’t get excited just yet. This might not be an album for you.
Tethered Moon are a jazz trio known for their impressionistic approach. As you might therefore expect, while their approach is clearly reverent, faithful reproduction of these familiar songs is not at the top of Tethered Moon’s list of priorities. You’ll find the same thing on Chansons d’Édith Piaf as you’ll find on any other interpretive recording: a sometimes studious, sometimes playful game of catch-as-catch-can with the charts of each song. In such a situation, the familiar thematic elements of each song are used as landmarks, glimpsed in brief, repeated flashes as if seen from the window of a moving car.
A perfect example is “La Vie en Rose,” here treated to a nine-minute exploration. Iconoclastic pianist Masabumi Kikuchi takes front and center, rendering the song’s central melody through a variety of shifting time signatures, frequently echoed by Gary Peacock’s bass runs. Peacock adds more improvisation to theme, but actually sticks to it more consistently than Kikuchi, who wanders where he pleases, returning off and on to the “base” of the his theme to try a fresh approach. It’s enjoyable listening, but the pervasive, evocative atmosphere of “La Vie en Rose” has largely been lost, with no comparable replacement in sight. And am I mistaken, or is there a recording of sheep in the background? What’s up with that?
As palatable jazz, Chansons d’Édith Piaf is more than acceptable. It’s an accomplished and pleasurable work. Most Piaf-philes will doubtless recognize it for what it is—a set of liberal interpretations used as groundwork for skilled improvisation. Followers of the Little Sparrow should merely be aware that Tethered Moon have painted her with broad strokes.