by Liz Singer from www.hotindienews.com, posted December 15, 2008
Throughout “Live at the Azure Cafe”, the latest album by Matthew Fogg and Nicole Hajj, Hajj’s voice is crystal-clear and stunningly jazzy, while Fogg’s piano skills are solidly spectacular. On “Cry Me a River,” the instrumental introduction makes you feel like you’re in the middle of a dream as the melody takes you to a faraway place. And once the vocals kick in, it becomes clear that these musicians’ talents are ones to be reckoned with.
“It Never Entered My Mind” mixes it up with a funky-fresh intro, toe-tapping beat, and upbeat, airy mood; it sounds like you’re like stepping onto the city streets early in the morning, ready to take on the day. Hajj’s voice dazzles through and through, sounding exactly like the amazingly sweet voice of Eva Cassidy. Between the wonderful vocals and almost-too-perfect instrumental riffs, I honestly couldn’t decide which I loved more.
With its strumming bass intro, “Twisted” is classic jazz at its best. My favorite track, though, is a remake of Norah Jones’ “The Nearness of You.” A personal favorite song of mine, I absolutely fell in love with this slightly slower, jazzier rendition. Both voice and keys are 100% “on,” and it’ll be no surprise when this duo reaches a similar fate as Norah herself.
On “Night & Day,” Hajj’s vocals continued to give me goose bumps as she hit higher, breathier notes, singing emotional lyrics about love. And on “Summertime,” her voice is as cool as a cold glass of lemonade, singing, “Summertime and the livin’ is easy.”
Slower and jazzier than ever, this track proves that even a jazz duo can create a diverse, eclectic album that constantly keeps listeners guessing about what they’re about to hear next.
From beginning to end, “Live at the Azure Cafe” proves the versatility of both Matthew Fogg and Nicole Hajj, as they skillfully re-create timeless songs to better fit their own talents and turn the old into something new, and—as is the case here— even better than the originals.