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.
“Third and best album yet by London-based Parisian chanteuse.” Mojo ****
“The whole album is simply a delight from start to finish.” London Evening Standard ****
"Recorded straight to tape on analogue equipment and mixed in mono, it is akin to a glass of fizz, with Joelle's joie de vivre coursing through the album's 10 tracks." Record Collector****
"Joelle's sensuous purred vocals and sprightly jazzy songs lend proceedings a contemporary edge while circumventing mere nostalgia." The Independent****
"Florence is a rare jewel and this second album captures her captivating style. She boasts deliciously suave vocal phrasing framed by a hot and agile band. Her savvy originals and jumping jazz standards are an unaffected joy. Blooming lovely." The Daily Mirror****
"A genuine talent, and definitely one to watch." Classic Rock - Blues Edition
"Sheer class." Shindig!
"Sultry, sexy and French, she was born with a voice tailor-made to pour out enticing cocktails of chanson, r'n'b and jazz." R2 Rock'n'Reel ****
"This has soul." Vive Le Rock 8/10
"Florence Joelle has an album that feels like one of the sirens has fled her Greek rockery and headed off to London." Fatea Magazine
"Florence Joelle sings rock ’n’ roll like Billie Holiday might, croons a torch ballad as Wanda Jackson may, and spices it all with a bit of Patti Smith attitude." Vintage Guitar Magazine
"Her breathy sensual Eartha-Kittish approach to singing is highly contagious and appealing." Penny Black Music
“It's her voice that smacks you around the head. It's utterly unique. “
Ruth Barnes' Pick Of The Week, Tom Robinson’s Show, BBC 6 Music
LIVE... NEXT FEW SHOWS
Friday 30 June: The New Evaristo Club, 57 Greek Street, London W1D 3DX. 8 to 11pm.
Friday 14 July: Stranger Than Paradise, Hootenanny, 95 Effra Road, Brixton, London SW21DF.
Sunday 16 July: Birmingham & Solihull Jazz Festival, Botanical Gardens, Westbourne Road, Birmingham B15 3PR. 2pm.
Sunday 16 July: Birmingham & Solihull Jazz Festival, Coast To Coast, 44 High St, Solihull B91 3GJ. 6pm.
Friday 28 July: The New Evaristo Club, 57 Greek Street, London W1D 3DX. 8 to 11pm.
Sunday 30 July: Bull & Gate, 389 Kentish Town Rd, London NW5 2TJ. Duo with Thierry Courault. 3-5pm.
Sunday 22 October: The East Kent, Oxford Street, Whitstable, CT5 1DA.