This is cool, classy jazz music with a touch of pop. The kind of music you hear when you stop in at the lounge on the corner on your way home from work. You’re standing at the bar when you hear a gentle voice, as smooth as the fine cognac in your glass, coming from the back room. A dirty-blonde beehive peeks out from behind the piano. You come closer and take a look at the creature whose hands are caressing the ivories; she’s dressed in sparkling attire worthy of Christina Hendricks and crooning songs that sound directly lifted from the swinging 60’s. Suddenly, you can’t stop staring at the drop-dead gorgeous girl with her lips pressed against the microphone. Best to pick up your drink and stop the conversation for a while. If you want to really hear Normandie’s soft, smoky alto voice and witty lyrics, you’ll have to listen closely.
She’s frequently compared to vintage classics (Burt Bacharach, Dionne Warwick, Astrud Gilberto), and modern-day sirens (Becky Stark, Inara George, of Bird and the Bee). Normandie’s sound falls sweetly on the ears of fans of classic 60’s pop, lounge, bossa nova, and modern jazz chanteuses like Melody Gardot, Norah Jones, and Diana Krall. “I always had a hard time singing loud, and that used to be a big problem for me. It wasn’t until I heard singers like Dionne Warwick, Karen Carpenter, and Astrud Gilberto that I became comfortable with my own voice,” she says.
Normandie cites the perfect pop music by Brian Wilson and Burt Bacharach as her primary influences, as well as songwriters like Antonio Carlos Jobim, Cole Porter, Carole King, Lieber & Stoller, and Holland/Dozier/Holland, along with many unnamed 50’s and 60’s instrumental pop records taken from the 10-cent bin at the thrift store. “I spent almost every day with my grandparents growing up,” she says. “I think the only person I’ve met who has my exact taste in music is my 86-year old grandma.”
A versatile multi-instrumentalist, Wilson has performed trumpet, keyboard, vibraphone, and marimba duties in San Diego/Los Angeles indie pop band Red Pony Clock since 2006, making appearances at the Athens Pop Fest and on other national tours. Currently, Normandie performs in San Diego every Wednesday in the lobby of the historic Lafayette Hotel on El Cajon Blvd. The hotel (along with Normandie!) was recently featured in the Travel Channel production “Hotel Showdown.” You can also catch her every Saturday night at the Caliph with San Diego lounge revival act Blue Velvet, the brainchild of pianist and singer Kevin Cavanaugh. Together with veteran musical theater performer Maggie Taylor, the three-piece Vegas-style cabaret act delivers a one-two-three punch of classic song stylings, quick witted humor, and a singalong live experience unlike any other.
Wilson’s latest project is a trio, Casino Royale, with fellow San Diego musicians David Fleminger (Manual Scan) and Bart Mendoza (Manual Scan, True Stories). Casino Royale features a selection of timeless music from masters of song craft such as Bacharach, Gershwin, Argent, Lennon-McCartney, mixing the best known tunes with deep cuts. It’s the perfect soundtrack to an evening out (or a morning in).
So grab a martini, a Mai Tai, or a Gimlet. Kick off your shoes and put the needle on the record. Relax and luxuriate in the luscious, lounge-y sounds of Ms. Normandie Wilson. Sing along if you like, or dance the night away with the date of your choice. One request: keep it classy.