Manu Le Prince ‘In A Latin Mood’ CD (Plaza Mayor Company Ltd) 4/5

Manu Le Prince is possibly the foremost exponent of Latin jazz in France. She has a distinctive vocal delivery which instantly entices the listener into her sound world. On the tile track which opens the album, she sings in English with a warm vocal timbre. She is also an accomplished song writer and lyricist and many of the songs on this album are written by Manu.
Known to many listeners for her work with the Brazilian musical wizard Hermeto Pascoal, Manu began her career in music in London at the age of nineteen. Jazz was in her blood from a very early age, and she cites being rocked to sleep by her mother singing Irving Berlin’s 1935 hit song ‘Cheek to Cheek’. In France, she sang in jazz-rock groups or as a solo soprano vocalist. It wasn’t too long before Manu decided to form with her own group and after a lengthy stay in Brazil began to work on developing her own style and repertoire. Her first album under her own name, ‘Agora’, was released in 1991.
Stylistically, Manu works at the intersection between Jazz and Brazilian music. However, in 2007, rekindling her childhood passion for Jazz, she recorded ‘Tribute to Cole Porter’ in recognition of the song-writing genius.

With several albums already under her belt, this one has been in preparation since 2016. As well as singing in English, elsewhere on the album she sings in Portuguese and French and employs some of the best musicians currently active on the French Jazz scene. The repertoire is nothing less than eclectic. In places she puts her own words to melodies supplied by Privat, Kenny Barron and others. Above all this music is easy to listen to and therefore easy to enjoy. Each track is a minor masterpiece and several have the capacity to become instant earworms. Pianist Grégory Privat is possibly the best known of her collaborators on the album, although all of the musicians are top class. On some pieces, accordion is added and works particularly well. At other times saxophone, percussion and flute are added to the sound mix to stunning effect. This is not an out and out jazz record but fits in the easy listening category, but this is not to devalue the accomplished musicianship on display here. There should be something for all tastes to enjoy and inevitably, the music of the Bossa Nova shines through.
It’s almost as if the vocalist is a contemporary Calypso enchanting us with her singing and who wouldn’t want to be detained on her most musical of islands?

You can catch Manu live in Paris on 18th January 2019 at Duc des Lombards, where she will be showcasing music from the album.

Alan Musson