Talila ‘Le Temps Des Bonheurs’ CD (Naïve) 4/5

The French-Jewish song tradition is a relatively closely guarded and indeed enclosed one, and as a result of Nazi policies during WWII there are precious few individuals left to perpetuate the songbook. Singer Talila, however, who presumably was born after this era judging by the cover photo, has been keen to safeguard and indeed update this tradition and is capable of singing both in French and Yiddish with the lyrics reproduced in the excellent sleeve notes indicating that this sometimes included a mix of colloquial German, though Yiddish is a language in its own right with a sound all of its own. Stylistically Talila has clearly been influenced by the classic French chanson tradition and the artists who emerged during the late 1940s and1950s onwards such as Brasssens, Brel, Ferré and, among women singers, Barbara. Interestingly the title track, sung in French, is not an old song at all, but rather a new composition, written by pianist Teddy Lasry. Another interesting number is ‘La vieille dame de la rue de Siam’ which is actually inspired by a poem of Jacques Prévert (an immensely talented individual who was both a successful cinema director during the 1930s and composed some immortal songs) which the composer titled ‘Barbara’ and became one of Yves Montand’s most beloved songs (see the superb ‘Montand chante Prévert’ album). Here the piece is transformed into a pared down piano plus vocal duet with subtle accompaniment. The overall mood is of 1930s cosmopolitan Paris open to external influences with a lovely retro jazzy flavour and when the renowned French drummer André Caccarelli (long-time sideman with Dee Dee Bridgewater among many others) is on hand, authenticity is beyond reproach. An uptempo klezmer feel permeates ‘Oy mame, bin ikh farbibt’, which was used as part of a film soundtrack in 1936 while the old-time feel to Ikh benh ahym’, complete with clarinet, banjo and double bass, was composed by Leyb Rosenthal during his time in the Vilna ghetto and was eventually killed by German forces in 1945 in the Baltic Sea. This album is a real trip into nostalgia with a genuine feel of the music in eastern Europe conveyed and there are very few examples of this music being performed today. A previous release from Talila on Naïve was entitled ‘Yiddish blues’.

Tim Stenhouse