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Melody Gardot’s lush, intimate and multi-lingual Sunset in the Blue is a warmly inviting, sensual and ultra-dreamy musical massage to soothe pandemic-weary souls. A tenderly arranged orchestral sweep through her passions for jazz, bossa nova and pop music, the singer’s fifth studio album was recorded with a socially distanced Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in Studio One at Abbey Road, marking the first session at the legendary studio after its first closure in its 90-year history. It was also the orchestra’s first reunion since the lockdown. Gardot recorded her vocals from her adopted home city of Paris, while her longtime collaborator, multiple-Grammy-winning producer Larry Klein, ran the session remotely from Los Angeles.
Hopeful and picturesque, the Gardot original “From Paris With Love” captures the collection’s moody vibe perfectly, the sighing orchestral accompaniment wafting along behind Gardot’s exquisite vocal musings. What’s more, Gardot invited suddenly unemployed musicians from around the globe to record their parts to the song at home and relay them digitally, paying them each the standard UK musicians' studio wage.
On the romantic, free-flowing “C’est Magnifique,” Gardot blends cultures artfully, fashioning a soulful duet in French with Portuguese singer António Zambujo that brings to mind the balmy transcendence of the late-’60s Jobim-Sinatra collaborations. The singer herself penned the two Portuguese songs that feel like the emotional core of the set, the lilting “Um Beijo” and the bustling bossa romp “Ninguém, Ninguém.” She also contributed the whimsical, film-score-flavored gem “Ave Maria,” the title of which is as daring (considering its sacred associations) as its sonic textures are beautiful. As for the sweetly re-imagined outside material, Gardot offsets songs we might expect (“Moon River,” “I Fall in Love Too Easily”) with sparse yet colorfully arranged takes on relative obscurities like Elton John’s cover of Leslie Duncan’s “Love Song” and the little-covered standard “You Won’t Forget Me.” — Jonathan Widran