What you hear in ‘If It Ain’t Love’, the new album by Patrice Jégou, is an artist approaching the height of her powers, ably performing a startling breadth of song selections.
The temptation is to listen and say, “Wow, what a beautiful voice!” And that’s true. But the real story is more complex. This is artistry, collaborative artistry, knowing what to add and what to hold back, at the highest level. You can listen, and listen again, and love something new each time.
Jégou’s skill level is confirmed, inasmuch as a person is known by the company she keeps, through the stellar ensemble of her musical collaborators. Read the credits.
It’s a subtle combination of song choices, and it’s well-served by the informed styles in which Jégou and partners perform them. You can be any age and enjoy this collection, but there’s much more pleasure to be had via somewhat matured sensibilities.
Why? Because it’s easy to proclaim “I’m young, I’m young!” in a performance, whether true or not. But with Jégou and her illustrious company, an attentive listener will find themselves feeling, “I’m young enough.” That’s “Young enough for passion.” “Young enough for love.” Wise enough to know the difference.
Beginning to end, top to bottom, Patrice and executive producer Yinka Oyelese have surrounded themselves with the best of the best – vocalists, instrumentalists, arrangers, recording and mixing engineers, conductor – and you’ll hear the brilliance in every moment. I’d bet even the deli that brought lunch to the studio sessions was Olympian.
For example – ‘It Might Be You’ by Dave Grusin, Alan & Marilyn Bergman, has never convinced me as emotionally sincere or significant. I’ve probably been prejudiced against the thin vocals on the hit version. In Jégou’s reading, it’s driven by a new impulse entirely, which one hopes will manifest in reality – and soon!
‘If It Ain’t Love’ is a milestone recording. I hope it gets its due – that’s difficult, but not impossible, for a recording on an independent label. But even more, I hope to hear another labor of love by Patrice Jégou and her ‘critical mass’ of musical masters.