Klef Notes

Music Reviews

Laughing With The Raindrops ...

JAZZ!  That one word sparks so many different opinions in music – some people automatically describe Jazz as did the character Herbert Greenleaf in the movie “The Talented Mr. Ripley” (1999) that it is “just noise – insolent noise.”  And then you have some music connoisseurs (serious people who think they are the Rockefellers of music) who define Jazz as being music for musicians and musicians ONLY!!  So, hey, I get it – Jazz, with its quite complicated form, instrumentation, and processing does only speak to some.  But so does ART, right?                     

So in this case, let’s say Jazz is the Picasso of the music genres so-to-speak as it is variant, full of colors, and only appreciated by some.  And the artist, artists, or bands that write, sing, and play Jazz are amongst a chosen group of people who can wield that brush. 

You can find thirteen artists who have mastered this art form called Jazz within the band “Laughing With The Raindrops.” 

Laughing With the Raindrops is a London-based Jazz band who self-entitled CD was recently 'Featured Album of the Month' on Steve Luff Show on Black Cat 107 FM.  Eclectically and surgically, they have created a spectacular collection of music that has global appeal.  Let me introduce you to these power players: 

> Alexander Keen on bass and double bass

> Gabriel Keen on piano, keys, Fender Rhodes, and alto sax

> Jon Desbruslais banging out on the drums and percussions

> Derek Nash is the sound engineer and also plays the sax

> Chantelle Addow-Hamlin, Makeda Carbon, and Jane Parker background vocalists

> Neil McBennett and David Underwood on guitar

> Theo Travis on tenor saxophone and flute

> Paul Higgs on trumpet and flugelhorn

> Paul Taylor on trombone

And I wanted to shine a spotlight on the band’s front woman and songwriter, Virginie Lacour-Puiboube. 

The Paris-born singer, songwriter, musician has been making music for years in the alluring streets of London England – from her days with the all-girl Reggae band, to studying Jazz harmony, on to the 13-piece band “Piano di Lavoro” that later evolved into Laughing With The Raindrops. 

With her Mezzo-Soprano voice that has a 2+ octave range, the way Virginie sings and writes Jazz makes it appealing even to the Jazz-haters – those who think Jazz is bland and uninspired noise.  No, Virginie’s method of creating and executing Jazz makes it ear-candy.  That is what drew me to her music.

And her style is on point.  Virginie’s style of fashion deviates from the normal Jazz wardrobe – she is not in suits, heels, etc. all of the time; you will see her in trendy hats, bohemian-styled ensembles, and global colors all with a classy swag. 

Moreover, she never came off like she was trying to be a music connoisseur, she just loves music and the inspiration life lends her to write.  Honestly, she makes music for everyone.

I remember Virginie told me modestly “this is not serious Jazz,” but to her defense, she knows what she’s doing – this IS serious.  

I will be reviewing Laughing With the Raindrops’ most recent self-entitled CD which houses 10 tracks: 

1. Did I Miss My Cue?

2. Any Joke

3. Terra Incognita

4. Hide Away

5. That Angolan Guy

6. Laughing With the Raindrops

7. So Long

8. Queen of Bohemia

9. Lay Down the Words

10. Freewheeling 

Every song on this CD takes you on a world journey with the band, but the seven songs highlighted in this review thoroughly forces the listener’s focus to the full canvas of art called JAZZ.

“Any Joke” is the second track on this 2017 release and is easily the sexy, mellow, smoke and Rum song of the collection.  Telling the story of the all too familiar feeling that follows the departure between lovers, this rich track lyrically exhibits how usually the partner left alone often utters the words “tell me a joke, ‘any joke’ to lighten the blow.”  The song starts out giving the listener 45-50 seconds of piano pleasure which superbly balances this anxious depiction of sadness because the piano plays anxious chords and then the music simmers down into a nice smooth vibe – as if the heart has calmed down.  Enters Virginie tenderly singing “He’s taken flight” as the sax just quietly sobs to make everything alright again.  The modern harmony on this track is a breath of fresh air and it shows the depth of Laughing With The Raindrops’ talent.  Moreover the repetitive play of the piano and harmony notes singing “Until the sun is rising up, rising up, rising up” gives the feel of when the turntable’s needle has stopped on one part of a song on an album back in the day, you know, when the song keeps repeating and it is late at night and you are just not concentrating on the album to stop it – what a great musical illustration of a late night where an individual just wants to start the day over again once the sun comes up.  At the close of this track you can imagine the sun finally rising! 

The music to lyrics ratio on the fourth track is balanced so well there is no redundancy or boredom from beginning to end.  “Hide Away” is a soothing memory note that relates the chance encounter of love, or lust that happens once.  While listening to the arrangement, you are actually musically transported to a shore where you can witness the chance encounter of two lovers passing by each other.  The violins play in the background like silk, and Virginie, Jane Parker, and Chantelle Addow-Hamlin melt into each other’s vocals and evoke a wave of harmony and unison to make you just melt.  And if “Hide Away” makes you melt, then “That Angolan Guy” gets you on your feet which brings me to the fifth song on the CD. 

Hide_Away.mp3

With nice use of slant rhyme, “That Angolan Guy” quickly became the dance cheek to cheek, up on your feet, just rock from side to side while on the sofa song for me and my peeps.  That great bounce and that bass just plucking away at your soul just keeps you moving!  The tall, dark, stranger in a new city learning to just BE is lyrically shown in this smooth Jazz track as Virginie sings “nowhere to live / nowhere to go / no money / no one to love / he says it’s easier here than being at home.”  The waa-waa vocalizations, brass, and percussions just adds flavor that speaks to your roots.  No matter if you choose to dance the Samba, Jongo, or just the two-step, you will find a natural rhythm to vibe to on this track.

“Laughing With the Raindrops” is the title track and justifiably so as it encompasses the full scope of the band – smooth vocals, crisp percussions, surgical harmonies, keys that open every emotion, strings that splice your soul, and a sexy sax.  In just 4 minutes, you are instantly introduced to the band.  It is as if the opening saxophone is seductively laughing as the guitar strums amusingly on the sixth track.  Virginie’s slanted vocals are so beautiful it just soothes you honestly and Gabriel Keen works magic on the Fender Rhodes thrillingly playing as the muse of the song.  This track is the quiet storm of the collection which displays Jazz sophistication. 

Following “Laughing With The Raindrops” is “So Long” one of the faster tempos of the collection.  Salsa-like in its approach, this awesome track features Virginie singing in an almost scat-like instrumental formality.  The song delivers the message of fleeting happiness that has haunted an individual for “So long” it is like a recurring storm.  I loved this track!  The horn section is reminiscent of 1960s Latin Salsa from the sax, to the trumpet, to the trombone.  Willie Col¤în would dig this song – it is FAB!  

So_Long.mp3

“Queen of Bohemia” has that 1970’s funk flare to it – that bum, bum, bum, beat with the guitars just merrily making happy!  That piano tapping in interludes is perfect.  The lyrics sing “You better watch it / you better watch it cause you hurt my friend the queen of bohemia.”  This is the “girl, I always have my friend’s back” song!  With a tambourine giving the track such sass, it’s nice and nasty all in one.  The imagery in this cut is spectacular and the chord progressions give you the highs and lows of real life emotion. 

Calypso meets Jazz on the final song of the CD called “Freewheeling.”  Filled with easy-going lyrics like “I saw your photograph on the wall my dearest love / I couldn’t hold back my tears when I saw your smile,” this cut was written, composed, and executed perfectly – every instrument, harmony, refrain, and breath was placed in the right spot to give the sensation of just cruising.  Virginie, Chantelle Addow-Hamlin, and Makeda Carbon’s vocals are so sweet; these three mesh well together and complement each other’s vocal prowess superbly – no flat overdone harmonies, nothing but fresh contemporary flavor.  I loved the line “I do remember how we lived together in that little house / we had our dreams, we had our world.”  And when that guitar comes in just crying ya’ll – OMG – that just highlights that free spirit vibe. With bongos, that amazing horn section, along with a soulful delivery, this song concludes the CD with power! 

What a beautiful portrait Laughing With The Raindrops has painted with Afro-Caribbean infused tonalities, image evoking lyrics, and variant instrumentation that just flows with balanced harmonies, free vocals, octaves, and scales.  You can be sad, happy, or could be feeling ambivalent towards something in life, but I guarantee, Laughing With The Raindrops has the song to adjust that emotion. 

I really started “getting” jazz during my college years as that was my go-to music to just level out and center myself.  

Yeah, I had my playlist of CDs on my desk: Kenny G, Tony Bennett, Mel Tormé, Chaka Khan, George Benson, and Nina Simone.  And I still listen to my favorite Jazz playlist to date, but I have since added to its size with James Tormé’ and now Laughing With The Raindrops. 

This CD is full of Jazz deliciousness that any serious Jazz fan will love.  It holds true to the classical elements of Jazz – the modulating keys, complex rhythms, multifaceted vocals, and melodic lines, but it also incorporates the NOW of music with catchy riffs, organic melodies, eclectic beats, and well-structured harmonies; thus, Smooth Jazz. 

These cats have been making some smoking music together for quite a few years from the streets of London onto other parts of the globe.  Their diverse charisma, Caribbean fused rhythms, and serious harmonies make this CD unforgettable, and their close-knit camaraderie shows in their final product. 

It is smooth; it’s smoking; it’s Jazz baby! 

To explore Laughing With The Raindrops and/or purchase this amazing CD, go to: http://laughingwiththeraindrops.com or follow Virginie on twitter @LaughRaindrops

 

Comments

It is lovely to see such an in depth review of my friend Virginie's music! I featured her as one of my hidden gems a while ago and whilst my 'gems' are meant to be humorous and not serious music reviews I was absolutely blown away by the complexity of the music on the album, all of which is composed by Virginie. Her guitar playing on the album is superb! She chose her musicians well, top class musicians who did justice to her music! The album demonstrates what a talented musician, composer and guitarist she is!
What a beautifully written review and right on target with this incredible album. I just recently received it and listened start to finish uninterrupted. Wonderful from start to finish. I give it 5 beards.
Thank you Lakisha for this epic review! I shall go to bed with my hat on (for maximum swag) and look forward to seeing you with a beard on, as I think you deserve one for being an awesome reviewer and writer...(#hint to Ghostly Beard). Great stuff!
Outstanding review again for that outstanding album! It reads like a thriller with suspense and cliffhangers, and it goes so well with the soundtrack of that superb album that I'm playing right now. Well done KiKi! And well done Virginie!

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