Jun 22, 2010

Melody Gardot and Phil Roy at the Park West 6/11/10

Melody Gardot

I waited for two years to see Melody Gardot in Chicago. I first learned of her talents after hearing her on satellite radio in my car. Of course I loved her name and with a name like Melody, how could she not carry a tune? My family had a trip planned to Minnesota to go to our nephews high school graduation parties on the date of her show. I could not miss her performance so decided to fly out the next day via SWA sans family. It was a bummer bailing on the 8-hour drive with the kids but I had to make the sacrifice under such dire circumstances.

My friend Anna unflinchingly trusts my taste in music and agreed to go to the show with me having never previously heard of Melody Gardot. Great to have friends like these for just such an occasion. Of course dinner must be had prior to the show now that I have the hall pass for the entire night. Now, I know this is a music blog but eating is often a precedent to an enjoyable night of music. We decided to go to Terragusto II on Armitage, conveniently located next to the Park West. The original location of the first Terragusto is on Addison near Wolcott. I had heard that this is a great BYOB Italian restaurant but every time that I tried to go, I had not made a prior reservation and was not able to get in. The location on Armitage apparently was not quite up to the same demand and so we were able to grab a table last minute. See the menu below for an idea of the pasta offerings:

potato-filled pasta tossed with green beans & fresh basil pesto

“alla Norma”
rustic whole grain pasta tossed with roasted eggplant, tomato, bufala mozzarella, garlic & fresh basil

classic egg thin ribbon pasta tossed with mushrooms & topped with pecorino sardo

Roman-style semolina gnocchi with shrimp, zucchini, tomato chunks & fresh mint in a white wine sauce

traditional meat-filled pasta tossed with tomato, extra virgin olive oil, fresh oregano & pecorino romano

Now the food was good but what I remember most is the difficulty ordering (granted it is now August and I went in June, but I digress). They have several options for ordering your meal. See below:

menu al magro
in july, $30/person
each diner selects their choice of antipasti
each diner then selects their choice of primi piatti
the table shares fresh-baked breads (or hand-crafted dessert, if you prefer)

menu tradizionale del quattro piatti
in july, 40/person
each diner selects their choice of antipasti
each diner then selects their choice of primi piatti
the table selects & shares poultry, fish or meat
the table shares fresh-baked breads (or hand-crafted dessert), OR
let the chef choose your selections — perfect portions served family-style

IMPORTANT — for parties of five or more guests (age 12+), the chef will make ALL menu selections — based on our kitchen & timing constraints, in order to ensure all guests enjoy their meal, we are unable to accommodate individual choices with large parties.

Since we were not of the party of five or more variety, we could ignore the bold IMPORTANT option. I know this may seem easy, but for us (and we both have master’s degrees), we got dizzy trying to decide on the best, most cost-effective, satiety inducing approach. We wound up ordering a la carte. Regardless, this is a good place to go given the fresh organic food and proximity to Park West Theatre.

Moving on to the music part of the entry. First a little background about Melody. She was born in New Jersey in 1985 making her a mere 25 year old. She began music lessons at age 9 and began playing piano in Philadelphia bars, where she later moved, at age 16. She was raised by her grandparents and studied fashion at the Community College of Philadelphia.

A pivotal moment for Melody came in 2003, at age 18, significantly affecting her music career. She had a near death experience. While on her bicycle she was accidentally hit by a Jeep Cherokee. This accident resulted in her having head and spinal injuries and a broken pelvis. She was confined in prone position in a hospital bed for one year. During this time, she had to re-learn how to walks and brush her teeth. She became hypersensitive to light and sound and developed long and short-term memory problems. She began writing songs after her accident and was also able to learn guitar. During her confinement she wrote her first album titled “Some Lessons, the Bedroom Sessions” which was released in 2005. She later released “Worrisome Heart” and “My One and Only Thrill” in 2008 and 2009. Her most recent release is particularly notable for its use of orchestral arrangements and elegant guitar and piano. She uses her music as therapy to get through her pain and to appreciate that although she now has hardship, she was given a second chance at life.

Melody Gardot is a jazz singer. She really does not stray from jazz vocals, possibly because she is not trying to confuse anyone. Her voice is wistful, breathy, and subtle and she never really belts out a lyric (which may be due to her sound sensitivity). Her vocals are really more intimate and haunting and her lyrics, poetic. She has more of an “old soul” presence and her lyrics and delivery of them render her more in line with veteran jazz vocalists than a new comer. She sets her self apart from colleagues such as Diana Krall, because she writes most of her own songs, and Nora Jones (whom she has written songs with) by her vocal subtlety and heavy-hearted lyrics. Melody’s range of music mixes classic jazz and blues and subtle samba.

During the show at the Park West, she reminded me of a vampy Marilyn Monroe (if only Marilyn could sing this well). She sang as if she was in a speakeasy singing older styles of music. She performed with an amazingly talented jazz trio on a dimly lit dark stage which created a seductive and haunting atmosphere. Her saxophonist, Irwin Hall, played both the alto and tenor sax, at times simultaneously! Her bass player, Charmatt Moffatt was also incredible. She did a medley of “Caravan” and “Summertime” after which she high-fived Mr. Moffatt revealing her sense of humor. Later on she demonstrated her quick wit while at the piano. She remarked that “they have a small pill for that”, when her microphone unexpectedly went “limp” and fell over.

Melody’s performance was amazing and it was well worth missing the drive to Minnesota I must say. I used to live down the block from the Park West and was aware of the “back door” on Orleans Street. We decided to walk by and catch a glimpse of Melody if possible. We got lucky and she was outside next to her tour bus with what looked like body guards (likely roadies) smoking a post-show cigarette. We walked up to her and I said “Hi Melody, I am a Melody too”. So very corny and un “jazz” cool (but whatever). I told her what a great show it was and how I had waited a long time to see her in Chicago. She was sweet and appreciative and just like her bassist, gave me a high-five for having the same name. I would never wash my hand except that would make me gay, juvenile, and would just be wrong in an era of germ phobia. Well what can I say, clearly I am giving the show a 5 out of 5 guitar rating!

To listen to Melody Gardot's songs, click on link for Melody's My Space page complete with audio of her songs:

Who Will Comfort Me by Melody

or watch this video of her singing "Who Will Comfort Me"... I get chills this is so great.

Phil Roy

Phil is a Philadelphia based singer-songwriter of the folk variety known for contributing songs to the soundtracks of movies such as Leaving Las Vegas and As Good As It Gets. In 2004, Roy's record label terminated his contract and his marriage collapsed. In response to these setbacks, Roy began his "I'm Not Leaving the House" tour in November 2005. Operating out of his townhouse with a table for sixteen, Roy provides home-cooked food and original songs for his diners on a monthly basis.

I am not going to comment much on Phil because A) he was a poor choice for an opening act for this show B) I only knew one of his songs (“Melt”) which won a previous award and I happened to like C) no one else knew him or his music at all and this fact he kept acknowledging throughout the show adding to his painful, uninspired performance. Needless to say, a one guitar rating is all I can muster. Maybe if I saw him at Old Town School of Folk, I would up the rating. Listen below to the song "Melt" which does represent Phil's talents.

1 comment:

  1. Very smooth, I feel so ugly and boring now. Hook me up with these great musicians you know about!