Caroline Nin and Valerie Benzaquine at Club RaYé, Paris for International Jazz Day

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There is something so totally assured about the vocal of jazz singer Caroline Nin, and it was a real pleasure to hear her, accompanied by Valerie Benzaquine on piano, as a celebration to International Jazz Day at the gem of a jazz venue, Club RaYé, rue Dessoubs, Paris.

Caroline has a style and personality that really shine. This is a small club but I imagine that for a far larger audience she could equally engage the crowd and hold them – her hands working so expressively with her voice in delivering both jazz standards from the classic era, Gershwin, Porter and so on, to the more modern melodies of Stevie Wonder and Prince.

With a pedigree extending through London, Paris and Sydney, Caroline knows what works. Where she scores so highly is with her confidence that allows her to take a melody, stretch, massage, and reconstruct it so that the listener also has the benefit of all those subtle, pretty notes that matter so much in lifting a tune from the expected to the exceptional. So often a vocalist give you just a melody – but Caroline gives her listener much more. Her voice IMG_0532takes you to places never written in the original lead sheet. Her scat too, which can I think be truly dreadful done badly, is clever, percussive, surprising and, coupled with those expressive hands, a real addition to her performance.

Valerie Benzaquine is the perfect foil on piano for Caroline. Economic in accompaniment to let the vocals shine, she was every inch the star in her solos, giving plenty for her listeners to know that there’s one load of talent beyond her very balanced and understated delivery. There’s a good chemistry between these two, and Valerie knows when to push and when to ease back. It’s fun to watch

I only saw the first two sets (of three), but there was more than plenty to make this very special. Sunny, S’wonderful and the most brilliant slow, bluesy Sweet Georgia Brown, plus a very poignant homage to Prince, Sometimes It Snows In April.

Jazz standards can be overdone. Caroline does them really well, whether in French or English. I personally would love to hear her with Valerie with a bigger combo, – but for the small, intimate and absolutely wonderful venue that is Club RaYé the piano and voice combination works perfectly.

The ambience and the charming staff added to a wonderful evening. I wanted to hear more – and I will be back.