Amel Larrieux conquered soul, hip-hop, folk and R&B, so it was just a matter of time until she got around to American standards. And Larrieux – who scored the hit, “Tell Me,” with Groove Theory in the mid-1990s and has enjoyed Grammy-nominated success as a solo artist — does precisely that on her new album, “Lovely Standards,” which arrived in stores earlier this week.
“I was a kid who grew up listening to the songs from musicals of the 1940s and 1950s, because my parents and different people in my family loved jazz and loved a lot of the vocal performances,” says Larrieux. “It was as much a part of the fabric of my musical life as listening to the popular music of the time, which was Michael Jackson or Culture Club or people like that.
“So I have always wanted to do an album like this, and I’ve always wanted to do a jazz album as well. So I figured why not do an album of jazz standards and put my own twists on the songs. And I tried to give them a modern feel and put my own sense of individuality on them, too.”
The new album includes Larrieux’s takes on such songs as “Shadow of Your Smile,” “Something Wonderful,” “I Like the Sunrise” and “If I Were a Bell,” among others. Larrieux, speaking by telephone from her apartment in New York City, explains that reinventing the songs was both exciting and easy. Making the process even smoother, Larrieux’s husband, Laru Larrieux, produced “Lovely Standards.”
“People often butt heads and have differences of opinion and different work ethics, but because I know him well, because we love and respect each other and want the best for each other, it was actually a lot easier working together,” Larrieux says. “We could talk about things at home and we could work out schedules to get into the studio or discuss the directions of the songs. It’s been one of the biggest blessings of my career to work with the person I’m married to.”
The album now out, Larrieux is on the road performing the songs for her fans. Next stop: B.B. King’s on Saturday. The show, she notes, will combine familiar songs and the new material. “It’s got to be a mix,” she says. “I have too many people who like listening to stuff from my previous albums, so we’ll definitely find a union. And I usually like to do so many different approaches to songs that I’ve already done that it becomes about improv and playing off the musicians and the reacting to the audience. So I think these songs will fit well with what I’ve already been doing.” Once the current mini-tour ends, Larrieux plans to record her next album.
“The ‘Lovely’ series is going to be continued with ‘Lovely Lullabies,’ that I’m going to do with my oldest daughter, who is 12,” Larrieux says. “I’m excited about that. And then, after ‘Lovely Lullabies,’ I’m going to do another, just Amel Larrieux album, with no themes. It’ll be my own personal stuff, my own songwriting. I’m going to keep that one away from the ‘Lovely’ series.”