Cyrille Aimée didn't come from nowhere. Having won two jazz vocal competitions in 2007 and 2012 (with a 2010 bronze in between) she was primed for success. She sounds equally comfortable singing in the jazz style she grew up hearing in France, assaying the Great American Songbook, or pop music, as the occasion demands. Her voice is deceptively powerful, but with a girlish sweetness. Her diction is clear, but her pronunciation betrays a trace of European-accented exoticism. What identifies her as a true citizen of jazz, however, is her unfailing sense of swing, command of nuanced rhythms and facility with scatting.
Aimée scats plenty on Burstin' Out, but her vocalizing is so organically integrated into the arrangements performed by the Chicago Jazz Orchestra (CJO), it leaves you wanting more. On "What a Little Moonlight Can Do," the opening track, Aimée improvises a line worthy of Stan Getz while handling the lyrics with a complete lack of guile. "A Night in Tunisia," quite often a vehicle for quick improvisational fireworks, here takes its title to heart and by virtue of its tempo creates an atmosphere of desert heat and economy of motion. Aimée's own scat solo effortlessly echoes the classy arrangement. Charts generally arise from the CJO's own talent pool, but the music retains its sense of timelessness and respect for its golden-age origins by adapting the work of Count Basie ("Them There Eyes"), Duke Ellington ("It Don?t Mean a Thing") and Claus Ogerman ("Dindi").
"Dindi" is nearly identical to the version Sinatra and Jobim cut in the '60s, but Aimée brings to it her own beautiful tone and fills the melody with a radiance that shines out from within. Placing "Dindi" at the CD's emotional center, on the one end is "I'm Through With Love," which finds the singer committing completely to its sense of hopelessness and resignation, while "Sometimes I'm Happy" puts Aimée at the other extreme of optimism and positivity. Burstin' Out is very much a collaborative effort between a world-class big band and its fine singer and clear evidence of the continued vitality of American popular song.