French vocalist Cyrille Aimée is a 21st century award-winning performer whose jazz-based music touches upon an eclectic mix of gypsy swing, Brazilian bossa nova, and Latin rhythms.
From her first independently released recordings, The Surreal Band (2008) and the following year's jazz and bossa standards set Smile -- co-billed to guitarist Diego Figueiredo -- Aimée won the attention of European and American jazz critics with her unique phrasing, bracing ideas, and commanding stage presence. She has won the Montreux Jazz Festival's Vocal Competition, the Sarah Vaughn International Jazz Vocal Competition, and was a finalist in the Thelonious Monk Vocal Competition; she performed at virtually every major jazz festival in the world. Her 2016 Mack Avenue debut effort, Let's Get Lost, peaked at number 11 on the jazz albums chart.
Born in Fontainebleau in 1984 and raised in nearby Samois-sur-Seine by a French father and Dominican mother, Aimée first became interested in performing music while attending a local Django Reinhardt Festival. After high school, Aimée moved to the United States to study at the conservatory of jazz at SUNY Purchase. While there, she was hired to play a weekly gig at a club in New York City's SoHo neighborhood. This led to other gigs, and soon Aimée was deeply embedded in the New York jazz scene. After graduating SUNY Purchase in 2007, the budding jazz star took first prize in the Montreux Jazz Festival Competition. Two years later, she released her debut album, Cyrille Aimée & the Surreal Band, as well as the album Smile with Brazilian guitarist Diego Figueiredo.
In 2010, Aimée received even wider recognition after reaching the finals of the prestigious Thelonious Monk Vocal Competition. That same year, she teamed again with Figueiredo for the album Just the Two of Us and released the live album Live at Smalls, featuring trumpeter Roy Hargrove. Another concert album, Live at Birdland, followed in 2013. A year later, Aimée released her Mack Avenue label debut, It's a Good Day, which featured collaborations with guitarists Michael Valeanu, Adrien Moignard, and Guilherme Monteiro.
In 2016, Aimée issued her second Mack Avenue release, Let's Get Lost, which found her focusing on romantic standards. After spending 11 weeks on the Jazz Albums chart and peaking at number 11, Aimée hit the road. In August, she and her long-standing live band played their final show together at New York City's Le Poisson Rouge before she relocated to New Orleans to pursue new directions and opportunities. Mack Avenue released the set the following summer as Cyrille Aimée Live.
Aimée returned in 2019 with the studio album Move On: A Sondheim Adventure. Inspired by her 2013 appearance in the New York City Center production A Bed and a Chair: A New York Love Affair, the album found her further exploring the music of composer Stephen Sondheim, backed by keyboardist and co-producer Assaf Gleizner, pianist Thomas Enhco, bassist Jérémy Bruyère, drummer Yoann Serra, and others. The album cracked the Top 20 of the Billboard Jazz Albums chart and earned Aimée a Grammy nomination for Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals for her rendition of Sondheim's "Marry Me a Little." ~ Matt Collar