All-Star Cast and Grammy-Nominated Pianist Combine their Talents
Up-and-coming singer Gillian Margot is just as much at home with jazz standards as she is with R&B, blues and the sophisticated side of pop music. She’s earned an avid global following from Asia to her native Canada and the USA. On her debut album as a leader, “Black Butterfly,” released in 2015 on HiPNOTIC Records, Margot leads a stellar cast of today’s jazz talent including guitarist Freddie Bryant, saxophonist/clarinetist Roxy Coss, pianist/organist Anthony Wonsey, bassist Richie Goods and drummer Kendrick Scott and producer, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt. Margot’s choice of material spans many decades and just as many styles, a showcase for her depth of knowledge and ability to channel minute shifts in emotion while working seamlessly across musical boundaries.
“Black Butterfly” begins with its title track, Margot adding her own lyrics to pianist George Cables’ 1974 gem, “Ebony Moonbeams.” She goes deeply into the gospel underpinnings of Curtis Mayfield’s “The Makings of You,” as she brings the song’s universality to life. She reinvents “Holding Back the Years,” a 1985 hit for British blue-eyed soul band Simply Red, as a starkly direct blues ballad, just vocals and rhythm section until Pelt adds a characteristically crystalline, moody solo. Likewise, Margot and Bryant – playing acoustic guitar – offer an airily terse, individualistic take of the popular Cuban ballad, “Delirio.”
A richly bittersweet, vintage 1970’s soul-infused piano-and-vocal take of Jimmy Webb’s breakup ballad “Do What You Gotta Do” that draws a straight line back to Roberta Flack’s haunting original. By contrast, Margot’s a-cappella version of Joni Mitchell’s “Conversation” adds new levels of both angst and ironic nuance, with an intuitively lilting Appalachian tinge.
The band recasts “It Could Be Sweet” – the 1994 Portishead trip-hop ballad and a defining moment in chillout music – as deftly syncopated shuffle by Scott creates a low-lit neosoul vibe. Bobby Caldwell’s soul ballad “What You Won’t Do For Love” gives Margot a lowdown Isaac Hayes-style psychedelic soul launching pad for her affecting, imploring vocals. Then she hits a subtly sassy, finger snapping blues groove in a spare but hard-hitting duet with Goods’ bass on her original composition, “Yesterday’s Blues.” The album winds up with a brisk, smoky take of Rodgers and Hart’s “I Wish I Were In Love Again” that’s as gritty as it is cosmopolitan.
Gillian Margot got her start in jazz the old-fashioned way, playing several shows a night and leading a wide variety of ensembles in her native Toronto. From there she expanded to the US and then Asia, where she earned a devoted following by constantly gigging and touring in Hong Kong, China and Singapore. A voracious collector of songs, Margot’s disarmingly wide vocal range and style eschews jazz singer clichés for refreshing delivery. “Black Butterfly” (Hipnotic 2015) is an artfully crafted set and speaks to the singer’s passion for musical diversity while showcasing her multifaceted talents. She’s played major venues throughout several time zones with top-tier talent from several continents. “Black Butterfly” is her second album as a leader and her first on HiPNOTIC Records.
Gillian Margot will be performing in San Diego at 8 p.m., Friday, March 11 at Dizzy’s Jazz, located at 4275 Mission Bay Drive, with Geoffrey Keezer (piano), Gilbert Castellanos (trumpet), Alex Boneham (bass), and Christian Euman (drums). Cover charge is $20.