Florence Joelle

Kiss of Fire
Zoltan Records
Florence Joelle

Florence Joelle sings rock and roll like Billie Holiday might, croons a torch ballad as Wanda Jackson may, and spices it all with a bit of Patti Smith attitude. Add to that Joelle’s French accent by way of London’s Camden Town, plus a wardrobe of silk and satin vintage evening dresses that can cause whiplash. And finally there’s the band, with wicked guitar lines from cowboy shirt-clad Huck Whitney, polyrhythmic drumming by Arthur Lager, and a solid backline from bassist/pianist Chris Campion. The result is one of the funkiest jazz/rockabilly/punk fusion bands anywhere.

On the band’s debut CD, they create a smoky, late-night mood lost somewhere between Django Reinhardt’s Paris, a Southern roadhouse, and CBGBs. The album has a well-balanced sound, rocking yet with a jazz club’s intimacy, that lets you hear all of the instrumentation. Live, the band has an even more powerful bark and bite.

Beyond two covers – Chick Webb’s “When I Get Low I Get High” and Teddy Powell’s “Unchain My Heart’’ – all the songs are originals. Joelle’s compositions are very much in the mode of classic jazz, yet at times with a sharp modern edge of humor and irony.
The opening track, “Hell Be Damned And Look Out,” captures the band in full glory. Moving between Joelle’s impassioned singing and Whitney’s barbedged guitar, the song personifies their devil-may-care attitude toward musical genres as well as the glorious creation that can result.

This article originally appeared in VG‘s Jan. ’12 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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