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‘In the moment’: ‘Improvisation is key’ to jazz singer Cyrille Aimée

Cyrille Aimée is touring in support of her latest album, “Move On: A Sondheim Adventure,” and will make her New Mexico debut with a performance on Saturday, June 8. (Courtesy of New Mexico Jazz Workshop)

Improvisation is one of the defining elements of jazz.

It’s also what Cyrille Aimée gravitates toward.

“Improvisation is key,” she says in a recent interview from her New Orleans home. “It’s really, like, the way I decided to make music in the first place when I met the Gypsies when I was little. Improvisation helps keep you in the moment. These days, not many people can be in the moment. I want them to be in the moment with me and see where it goes.”

Aimée grew up in France and developed her love for jazz there.

She often sang on street corners in Europe, and now she plays some of the most prestigious jazz festivals in the world.

Aimée, a rising star in the jazz world, will make her New Mexico debut with a show on Saturday, June 8. The performance is part of the New Mexico Jazz Workshop’s summer series at the Albuquerque Museum Amphitheater.

Aimée is also touring in support of her new album, “Move On: A Sondheim Adventure.”

For her performance, there will be plenty of material from the album.

“The plan is to perform songs from the album,” she says. “We’ll see what happens. This will be the first time I’ll be playing with my bass player and pianist. It’s what I’ve been doing every month in New Orleans. I book a gig and then find musicians to play with. I love improvising and being open to what the other person has to offer. It helps keep me at my best.”

In picking songs for the new album, Aimée decided to go with tracks from Sondheim’s catalog that spoke to her.

“The lyrics and words have to be something I relate and I feel connected to,” she says. “Then I don’t feel like I’m lying if I’m singing them.”

The songs on the album include “Take Me to the World,” “Loving You,” “Being Alive,” “Not While I’m Around,” “I Remember” and “Move On.”

She says choosing the songs was time-consuming.

“I got the four volumes of Sondheim’s music, and I read through everything like it was a novel,” she says. “Each song is like a short story, and it’s really fun. I put a mark next to the songs that move me. Then I went online and tried to find versions of those songs. Then I figured out a way to make them my own.”