Thursday, August 7, 2014


On a cool Wednesday summer night, I decided to attend a jazz concert featuring up and coming singer/songwriter/recording artist Francine Hailman and pianist Rick Maltese.  

The performance by the duo showed both sass and soul at its finest in a lovely backyard garden setting.    Francine has a very soulful, rich, and nuanced voice, and she has a great command of singing the great American songbook, giving the music the proper respect it deserves.   I also appreciated that for each tune that she did, she gave historical and antedoctical background towards the meaning, context and the people behind the timeless songs.

Among the highlights is listening to her take on “Here’s that Rainy Day” and “All The Way”, where she shows wide emotion and passion through the songs.    On other material such as "Sweet Georgia Brown", "I Ain't Got Nothing But the Blues", "So In Love" and "Sway" to name a few, she captivated the audience with lively swing, bluesy feel, and exotic Latin spice.

Not only Francine is a fine interpreter of the American songbook, she is a very accomplished songwriter who has written what I would call the modern jazz standard.    For instance, the song “Music in The Air” takes on the feel of a classic 1930’s-1940’s swing vibe that could easily be a vehicle for Peggy Lee and other great torch singers.    The highlight of her original singing is her soaring performance of her brand new composition “Just to Ease the Pain”, which was simply a tour de force that literally channeled Barbra Streisand in the performance and it could very well be one of her best compositions that I heard through the night.   It conveyed loss, pain, emotion, and hope at all the right places.

A word about Rick Maltese.    Rick is a very complementary accompanist and is very strong with his striding skills.    His playing showed a wealth of experience and dedication to the craft and showcased a lot of major influences ranging from the stride of Jelly Roll Morton to the sensitivity of Bill Evans.   He complimented Francine perfectly with his sensitive playing.

The venue was at Plein Air Garden, a small intimate venue where the performances are under the stars and it is set up like a garden party.   It is very unique, charming, and really inviting, providing a unique space for the arts and for those that enjoy it.    Not to also mention, founder Susan Brown had also laid some delicious biscotti cookies (my favourite was the Lemon Cranberry) and water to refresh me throughout the evening.

Overall, a very lush night of music from a great vocal/piano duo in the tradition of greats such as Ella Fitzgerald/Oscar Peterson, Tony Bennett/Bill Evans, Irene Kral/Alan Broadbent and Hank Jones/Roberta Gambarini.


(Rick Maltese and Francine Hailman)

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