ABOUT CRYILLE AIMÉE
Vocalist Cyrille Aimée (Sur-real EM-ay) was raised in the French town of Samois-sur-Seine, the hometown of Gypsy jazz guitar legend Django Reinhardt. Her father is French and her mother is from the Dominican Republic.
Winner of the Montreux Jazz Festival’s Vocal Competition, the Sarah Vaughn International Jazz Vocal Competition and finalist in the Thelonious Monk Vocal Competition, Aimée is—in the words of Will Friedwald of The Wall Street Journal—”one of the most promising jazz singers of her generation.” In the same Wall Street Journal feature (which included vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant), Friedwald declared both to be “astonishing creative singers, with a brilliant sound, fresh ideas, impeccable rhythm and an overall approach that honors tradition without being shackled to the past.”
Aimée’s introduction to jazz was the result of the fortuitous location of her upbringing, the village Samois-Sur-Seine—the same place where legendary gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt had lived. Every June for decades, gypsies have descended upon Samois, setting up caravans in nearby meadows for the annual Django Reinhardt Festival. During those June nights many years ago, after her parents would fall asleep, a young, curious Aimée would climb out her bedroom window and wander into the gypsy encampments. Aimée would sing by the fire with Django’s descendants and began to fall in love with the gypsy way of life—scampering home before the sun rose. Explained Aimée, ”I was hypnotized by gypsy music which made me want to tap my feet; music that swings makes me so happy.”
As a teenager, Aimée performed in various Parisian cafés and clubs. When her family moved to Singapore, she remained in Paris to attend the American School of Modern Music. She also auditioned for “Star Academy,” the French equivalent of “American Idol.” Selected to be one of 16 semi-finalists, Aimée had second thoughts when handed a contract that tied her up every which way for years—including the songs to sing. This was too much for her gypsy spirit—so she quit. The French media so pursued Aimée, she sought refuge in her mother’s homeland of the Dominican Republic.
Given it’s proximity to New York City, Aimée then opted to attend SUNY Purchase on a scholarship. She discovered campus life as a freshman and Manhattan as a sophomore—and her musical influences grew in leaps and bounds.
In 2006, Aimée organized a backpacking tour of Europe where she and musician friends played and sang on street corners. In 2007, the group targeted jazz festivals where they performed for food and lodging. On a whim, Aimée entered the Montreux Jazz Voice Competition and won; the prize included the financing of her first full-length recording, “Cyrille Aimée & The Surreal Band.” Just months later another surreal experience would follow: Aimée found herself performing on a major European tour with the French supergroup Caravan Palace—filling-in for their ailing lead vocalist.
In recent years Aimée has toured in many different contexts and has created several self-produced recordings, including duet projects with Brazilian guitarist Diego Figueiredo. She won the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition in 2012, the same year she released the self-produced, “Live at Birdland”. Aimée’s talents caught the attention of Stephen Sondheim, who cast her in an Encores Special Presentation starring Bernadette Peters at New York City’s City Center in November 2013. Holding her own as an actress, the New York Daily News exclaimed, “Aimée is the revelation.”
In August 2014, The New York Times referred to Aimée’s major label release “It’s a Good Day” as “a bravura turn, presented with a smile.” Featuring originals as well as covers of classics, the band is the result of Aimee’s unique musical vision: bass, drums and three guitars (Brazilian, gypsy, and jazz). Aimée’s hybrid of influences has resulted in a sound that’s at once both fresh and enlivening, which is to say nothing of her singular voice—destined to enthrall audiences for decades to come.