Taken by the desire to scout out the jazz scene in Rome, Eddie and I checked frēstyl for what was happening on Thursday night (11th Nov). What we found was a concert by Awa Ly at the ‘Gusto Wine Bar, in Rome, and what a find that was.

Right nearby Piazza del Popolo, ‘Gusto is a mini-complex consisting of a pizzeria, a restaurant and a wine bar, amongst a few other things. The wine bar section has live music every Tuesday and Thursday. We arrived a little early, so we decided to settle down for a little and ordered two glasses of Nero d’Avola, which was a little discovery in itself. The dark, raw taste of the wine contrasted with the surroundings, which looked more like an upper-scale Manhattan restaurant than anything else. The emulation effort was rather achieved though, and the atmosphere was filled with the soft effervescence of laughter, lightheartedness and a grain of fantasy.

It was in this atmosphere that Awa Ly, a Parisian with Senegalese roots, stepped up and provided the finishing strokes of this New York restaurant painting. With a voice on par with Norah Jones, Melody Gardot and Madeleine Peyroux, she launched into an enchanting combination of the bass, piano and voice. The background musicians were brilliant, creating rhythm that eclipsed the need for a drum-set. The pianist was very able also in the improvisation area, and launched into several dazzling solos. Sadly, though, I found that they could have put a mic on the piano, which slightly lacked in volume.

As for Awa Ly, she was a reminder of how many musicians there are out there who deserve a whole lot more recognition. She began with a couple of songs that I didn’t know, imbuing her music with a refreshing amount of feeling, and accomplishing variations in tone and volume with great success. The first song I recognized was Couleur Café by Serge Gainsbourg, which I learned in music class in 4th grade. Her rendition completely captured the essence of what hit me back then—the poignant notes, the tender lyrics, and the song’s incredible warmth of tone.

Ly’s take on What A Wonderful World was equally convincing. She transformed the song into a journey governed by the whim of the lyrics, and what rumbling gruffness Armstrong provided to the song, she provided in softness and delicacy—the effect was different but just as touching.

She continued her concert by providing with each song an argument for the audience, who was mainly there to dine, to turn its attention to her rather than the food. After concluding, she proved to be an extremely open person on top of being a great artist, coming up to Eddie and I to see how we liked the concert, since we had provided much of the applause that night. As it turns out, her next concert will be on the 26th, when I’m in Lyon… a real shame. Nevertheless, I bought a CD, which has provided me with a glimpse of the wide range of styles her voice can blend itself with effortlessly.

It was also the first CD I have bought for myself in ages.

Awa Ly

:: matt

PS: Awa Ly is playing tonight (26th Nov) @ Black Sheep Bistrot