from www.muzikreviews.com – September 20, 2006 by Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
Matthew Fogg & Nicole Hajj had a history before this album came together. They met and found a mutual admiration and respect for one thing, the art form of jazz.
It is unusual to release a debut album as a live recording, but the duo decided this was the best way to present their music at the time. Live At The Azure Café was released in 2005 and received with open arms from the jazz community.
The mixture of jazz standards and originals is as compelling as it is enriching for the casual listener or connoisseur. Music like this has a particular audience, one that can appreciate good music and the changes it can go through in a live setting. It is quite simple actually, if you have a love for good music, this CD will find a way into your heart.
Besides the beautiful tones and elegant vocal style produced by Nicole, Matthew provides fresh arrangements via his exemplary piano playing. They get plenty of assistance from their friends, too. Shawn Boissonneault (drums, percussion) is a long time friend and collaborator of Fogg’s, Brad Terry (clarinet), Andy Rice (acoustic & electric bass), and Lucas Cantor (guitar), round out the sound and form an ensemble that would rival any other band out playing jazz music today in a public venue. I would go far beyond that, actually, and say that this is several notches above any typical nightclub performance. This is a group of musicians right in the middle of their creative element.
A select group of people provided the necessary audience ambiance, and the live sound resonates clearly and crisply throughout this recording. There is not any other idiom that flourishes more in a live setting than jazz, I can attest to that fact. After seeing countless concerts over the years there are a few jazz shows that I cannot seem to forget, and I know why. Improvisation breathes new life into songs you have heard a hundred times before. Take “My Funny Valentine” for instance. You instantly recognize the tune, however, the musicianship puts a different spin on the standard and brings it right into the new millennium by giving due respect to the past and adding bits and pieces of today for a sound that is unforgettable. Fogg & Hajj have a special chemistry and the music that they make will give you the sense of being there, you can feel the creative energy and sparks flying. That is quite convincing since I was not there to actually witness the performance.