Italian–born and American–raised, Sylvia Bennett presents the intimate portraits of French pop and jazz standards in an attractive package of thirteen carefully composed songs crafted in an enthralling and memorable manner. Sylvia’s French vocals are accompanied by Mike Levine on piano, Chuck Bergeron on bass, John Yarling and Frank Derrick on drums, Billy Ross on clarinet, Bill DeRenzo and Gregg Drew on accordion, Hal S. Batt on guitars and Vienna strings, Geremy Miller on violin overdubs/solos, and Mike Lewis on rhythm arrangements.
“Un Homme Et Une Femme” opens with a breezy, sparkling, and jazzy standard vein with a throwback to the jazz of the 1960s and 70s coming from Brazil. The swishy percussion with vibraphone type sounds and tiny bell tones accompany the symphonic strings and sparkling piano notes. Sylvia’s French vocals gently propel the song into a type of French/Brazilian masterpiece that is contributed to composer Francis Albert Lai.
“La Vie En Rose” begins with a sultry accordion opener and a jazzy piano line. There are hints of light percussion that are brushy and sauntering. The laidback song contains Sylvia’s pop standard vocals that would make Edith Piaf proud. There are symphonic strings that back the main melody. The accordion drifts in and out. All in all, the song glistens with delicate song structures, poignant instrumentation, and a classy musical setup that incorporates jazz, classical, pop, and folk music.
“C’est Magnifique” opens with a jaunty pop standard fresh with blaring clarinet, punchy drums, and pensive piano. Sylvia’s vocals signal a rollicking medley of upbeat rhythms and entertaining lyrics. The brushy percussion accompanies the dry clarinet sounds with moving piano sounds that add a bouncy step in the song structures overall. The giddy little track is fresh, but it also contains an element of maturity characteristic of great French music. The punchy clarinet adds a touch of classicism and jazz that is purely ‘magnifique’.
“Moulin Rouge” begins with sauntering symphonic strings and a slow, piano line. A jazzy percussive section accompanies Sylvia’s vocals. There are pizzicato–like string arrangements with a few instances of fast guitar strums indicative of romantic French, Italian, or Greek pop music. The violin sounds are upfront mid–song, while the pizzicato embellishments bring a classical feel to the pop standard without overpowering other elements.
“Les Parapluies De Cherbourg” opens with a few brushy percussive strokes accompanied by symphonic strings and violin sounds. The quick orchestral intro gives way to brushy percussion and Sylvia’s characteristic vocal setup with a little piano accompaniment played in a jazz standard manner. The music incorporates symphonic strings in the background with a few pizzicato–type orchestrations mid–song. A violin wavers with elements of French romanticism near the end of the song. However, there seems to be a lot going on musically and instrumentally, but none of it is unnecessary.
The seductive and suave songs of Sylvia Bennett on C’est Si Bon are jazzy, pop–centered, and classical. The warmth of the vocals signals a winning chord amidst the backdrop of European musical arrangements and various instruments. Sylvia’s vocals fall somewhere between Patricia Kaas, Carla Bruni, and Edith Piaf. The instrumental repertoire is succinct and meaningful throughout. The instrumental arrangements are delicate, poignant, and timeless. As a whole, C’est Si Bon delivers a classy set of songs led by one of the best singers in contemporary music today. Anyone familiar with French pop music, jazz standards, European music, and neo–classical vocal music will love Sylvia Bennett. C’est Si Bon is nothing short of ‘magnifique’.
Artist: Sylvia Bennett
Album: C’est Si Bon
Review by Matthew Forss
Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)