Very few of the numerous jazz tribute albums that were recorded in the late 1990s are truly essential, and only a minority of these are as chance-taking as Chansons de Piaf. This isn't an album in which yet another retro-bop "Young Lion" provides yet another unimaginative album of the same old Cole Porter, George Gershwin, or Irving Berlin songs done the same old way. The person that Tethered Moon -- an acoustic trio consisting of pianist Masabumi Kikuchi, bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Paul Motian -- pays tribute to is Edith Piaf, France's most famous pop singer of the 20th century. Piaf isn't someone who has been entirely ignored by the jazz world -- Louis Armstrong, for example, had a major hit in the early 1950s with his English-language version of "La Vie en Rose," and singer Karrin Allyson is hip to Piaf's music. Nonetheless, jazz tributes to Piaf are the exception instead of the rule, so in 1999, her music was still fertile ground for jazz improvisers. Tethered Moon embraces the late singer's repertoire on their own creative terms, and there's a definite freshness to the trio's impressionistic post-bop versions of "La Vie en Rose," "L'accordeoniste," "Bravo pour le Clown," and other gems associated with her. Without question, Chansons de Piaf is among the more adventurous and interesting jazz tributes of the 1990s.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson