Danick with Amitié
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Danick with Amitié

Bellevue, Washington, United States | SELF

Bellevue, Washington, United States | SELF
Band World Jazz


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"Review of Amitié CD: Voyage d'Amour"

In the liner notes of Amitié’s 2009 album Voyage d'amour, relocated French singer Danick thanks a friend for teaching her “the joy of Pro Tools.” Depending on the parties involved, such a revelation could be a good or bad thing, but in Danick’s case the sentiment is flatly charming. After hearing the album, it’s hard to imagine such a natural, traditional talent drinking the digital Kool-Aid. Pro Tools or not, the album sounds like it comes from an age where Danick’s dearly departed influences ruled the radio. Perhaps more importantly, Voyage d’amour certainly doesn’t sound like it was recorded in Redmond, Washington, where the singer settled a decade ago after a considerable music career in France. The album’s ten tracks are split evenly between Danick’s originals and versions of French classics from the likes of Edith Piaf, Claude Nougaro, Georges Brassens, Francis Cabrel, and Zazie. As for the subject matter, look no further than the album’s title. While the name of the band may mean “friendship” in French, the songs are unabashedly drenched in the warm ooze of love. This is laid-back, snuggly stuff made by a band of experienced musicians, and the amorous style is quite obviously in Danick’s blood.

A core trio performs on all ten songs; Danick on vocals and guitar, Stephen Kennedy on upright bass, and John Sanders on the oh-so-essential accordion. The music on Voyage d’amour wouldn’t command nearly the same emotional response without the squeezebox, though every instrument is in thoroughly capable hands; both Kennedy and Sanders are music instructors. Then there’s Hawaiian-born guitarist Jonny Akamu, who adds flamenco and classical spice to the proceedings. His guitar work consistently invigorates classics like Piaf’s canonical “La Vie En Rose” and Nougaro’s joyful “Rimes.”

Zazie is the most modern singer covered on the album, and there’s an undeniably pop-like construction to the enchanting “J’envoie Valser (I Don’t Mind),” the album-opening track that showcases Danick’s arresting old-world vocal style and adept guitar work. While the Zazie tune favors a bit of modernity and metaphor, Francis Cabrel’s “L’encre De Tes Yeux (The Ink of Your Eyes)” displays an elegant, dramatic flair that makes it sound as desperate as the song’s pining lyrics. Sorrow pools in the listener’s eardrums while lines like this drip from clouds of regret: “Since we will never be together, I wanted to tell you that it’s with the ink of your eyes, that I wrote every one of my poems.” Sure, it’s heaving and melodramatic, even sappy, and as a result, listeners that don’t understand a word Danick is saying might be happier for it. After all, you don’t need to be bilingual to understand a stirring waltz like “La Java De L’au Dela (The Java of the Beyond).”

Those who will seek out this music probably speak French anyway, so it is better for those who don’t parle francais to interpret the vocals as an instrument. In that regard, Danick is spectacular, engineering miracles of melody where strings cohabitate with her voice in the most impressive ways. On her own “Desir (Secret Longing),” guest cellist Emily Peterson uses Danick’s melancholy ruminations to inspire her own grand, swooning lines. Likewise, Brassens’ “Je M’Suis Fait Tout P’tit (I Made Myself Tiny)” finds Kennedy’s bass and Danick’s voice prodding, teasing, and interacting with each other while Sanders adds unique, conversational accordion passages.

Amitié mixes scholarly reverence of the material with necessary passion and energy to create a remarkably varied collection of songs on Voyage d’amour. There are pleasant surprises around every corner of this album’s musical path.

Review by Bryan Rodgers
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
- Bryan Rodgers

"Review of Amitié CD: Voyage d'Amour"

Voyage d’Amour, French-born Danick Isabelle Jawer’s thrillingly intricate new collaboration with Amitié, captures the affection, the sorrow and the music of a relationship, whether the listener speaks her native tongue or not. This is made possible, in no small way, by Amitié (“friendship” in French), a trio from Seattle that skips along with a jaunty insouciance, yet never tumbles into syrupy sentimentality. Then there’s Danick, born in Grenoble, France, and now using her first name on stage. Her old-world charm stems from a voice of startling range, one with both bright intensity and delicate sensitivity.

All of that is on display during “J’Envoie Valser (I Don’t Mind)”, the tender opener on Voyage d’Amour. Singing a traditional French tune originally made famous by Olivia Ruiz, Danick’s vocal is quiet but insistent, and perfectly suits the lyric’s cry for passion from a cold but wealthy partner. There is a difference, Danick reminds, between showering someone with gifts and truly, openly loving. “I prefer that you love me, without spending money.” She effortlessly flows around gorgeous, spiraling runs by accordion player John Sanders, a music instructor and jazz band director at the Seattle-area Edmonds Community College. Theirs is a partnership that, like the subject matter, continues to strengthen and grow, as this Voyage d’Amour continues.

Danick grew up listening to local legends like Edith Piaf and Yves Montand, and she carries forward Piaf’s candle-lit intimacy. Her take on Piaf’s signature song “La Vie en Rose,” later the title of a film about the legendary World War II-era French singer, creates a brightly colored, impressionistic portrait of an artist and a woman who left this world with no regrets. Hawaiian-born guitarist and singer/songwriter Jonny Akamu adds flourishes of flamenco on a definitive new reading of Francis Cabrel’s “L’Encre de Tes Yeux (The Ink of Your Eyes).” Danick’s double-tracked vocal illustrates her great dexterity, both technically and emotionally, on a song about an unreachable relationship. Akamu is also particularly effective on the Piaf tune, showing this keen Joe Pass-like panache, and on Claude Nougaro’s immortal celebration of song, “Rimes.” There is also a delightful turn on the cello by Emily Peterson during the original “Desir (Secret Longing).”

Danick’s “Ecoute,” another of the five tunes that she wrote or co-wrote, features her brother Marc on saxophone. In fact, a strong sense of family, and of remembrance, permeates Danick’s original work on Voyage d’Amour. “La Java de l’Au Dela (The Java of the Beyond),” written with Danick’s father Robert Prunier after his death in 2007, provides a shimmering hope for what lies ahead. “Life is a masquerade, but beyond … it’s freedom.” “Saveurs Espagnoles (Taste of Spain)” recalls a trip made in her 20s to Barcelona. “Tango de’la Famille (Family Tango)” explores the complicated emotions surrounding these life-long bonds. The album’s highlight is Danick’s new interpretation of “Je M’Suis Fait Tout Petit (I made myself quite small),” by Georges Brassens. She brings a fresh, twinkling aloofness to a song about supplicating before the dizzying wiles of a mysterious lover. “I have never taken my hat off for anyone,” Danick sings, “now I grovel and sit up and beg when she rings for me.”
Standup bassist Stephen Kennedy, a music teacher at Todd Beamer High in Federal Way, Washington, begins with an elliptical, almost feline foundation, before the tune begins building toward its desperate maybe-I’ll hang-myself conclusion. It’s always been a song about power shifting from one to another in a relationship but in Danick’s new reimagining, there remains this hope of a crafty, last minute escape. That kind of complexity is a tribute to Danick, and the calling card of this intriguing Voyage d’Amour.

Review by Nick DeRiso
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
- Nick DeRiso


Amitié: "Voyage D'Amour" available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/amitie

Ancient Sounds: 2 CD's Resonnance and Future Unfolding (available at www.ancientsounds.org)



A native of Grenoble, France, Danick is a life long musician who grew up listening to French legends like Edith Piaf and Yves Montand but was mostly influenced by jazz and world music. Miles Davis, Stephane Grapelli, Joa & Bebel Gilberto, Claude Nougaro, Zap Mama, Bela Fleck are only a few names among many that continue to inspire Danick's music as a means to connect people's hearts. The songs are meant to inspire and uplift the listeners. "French is such a beautiful language," people say. "I feel the same about English," responds Danick! For her, all languages are gateways to exotic places. Their sounds carry grace and energy, strength and vulnerability even if we don't understand the words! It's about imagination and fantasy, a soulful escape, a "voyage d'amour".

Danick, singer, guitarist and songwriter has a music degree from the Conservatoire de Musique of Chalon sur Saône, France. She started classical guitar at age 7 and soon realized that it was the perfect companion to her voice. At 15 she was touring with a high school Russian dance and music folk group. She started to sing in the streets and cafés of Grenoble, her home town with her brother on saxophone playing jazz and bossa nova and later French and American pop in a successful female duet. By day she was studying English and Russian at university. But after graduating, she felt that music had to be central to her life so she went back to school in a music Conservatoire. She worked in the development of a music school in rural France before moving to Paris where she found her American love! Together they moved to the US and to Seattle 10 years ago. She met some wonderful musicians and began performing, first with Hejira, a Middle Eastern music band, then Ancient Sounds, an Ethnic World Fusion ensemble with whom she just completed a 2nd CD (www.ancientsounds.org). But her desire to share the music she grew up singing pushed her to create her own band.

Jonny Akamu, born in Hawaii is a talented and versatile guitarist/ singer/ songwriter whose philosophy is that music is a gift, not just a sound. It's part of the human soul. Jonny’s passion for music has taken him through the Orient and Europe, always in search of new techniques, influences, styles, and rhythms. In 2005, he went to Seville, Spain to study flamenco guitar. Upon returning, Jonny wove elements of flamenco into his jazz phrasing to create a laid back vibe that truly reflects who he is. He lives in Seattle where he plays with many musicians.

John Sanders, accordionist, is a music instructor at Edmonds Community College where he teaches Music Theory and directs the Jazz Band. John continues to work as a jazz pianist as he has for many years in the Seattle area, but he's so grateful to have opportunities to explore his new love, the accordion. John lives north of Seattle with his wife and two daughters.

Stephen Kennedy, upright bass, attended Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood Washington, where he played with the vocal jazz ensemble, Soundsation. He completed his Bachelor's Degree in Music Education from Central Washington University. While there, he studied double bass with Jon Hamar, while playing in the orchestra, jazz band, and various combos. Stephen currently teaches in the Mukilteo School District and plays bass every chance that he gets.