The quality of an artist is best measured from the volume of work produced throughout his/her career. But some individuals must be exempt from this rule. Life circumstances bring all sorts of constraints that can impede an artist's creation or production. Then, sometimes, a small and modest opus speaks so well about potentials, talents and uniqueness that there is no need for a lifetime intense creation to have an adequate judgment on the excellence and talent of the artist. Ginou Oriol's unique album "Under a Spell" exemplifies very well this thought.
It is, to me, one of the most difficult tasks to address the loss of such a talented vocalist, who pioneered the involvement of women within the "Krey˛l Jazz" at the end of the nineties with this unique 1998 album "Under a Spell" produced and released by the Haitian Embassy in Tokyo as part of a cultural exchange between the republic of Haiti and Japan. It is even more difficult for me, as the author of many jazz chronicles and album reviews on Karijazz.org, to write these overdue lines about one of our most prominent figures in the history of this struggling musical movement.
The liner note from the album's booklet says little about Ginou herself. From the brief synopsis on her itinerary we can infer she grew up in Haiti, between Cap Haitian and Port-au-Prince listening to the sound of the drum that populates Good Friday's nights. She moved to the United States with her parents and started studying opera. Later on, she will fall in love with jazz music and became completely infatuated with this genre until she prematurely left us on November 25, 2013.
She took part to countless live performances and has played with the cream of the crops of Krey˛l Jazz. But, besides singing jazz standards, the interpretation of popular Haitian folk songs such as Yoyo, Kouzen, Danmbalah to cite a few, was always at the core of her repertoire. The vocal prowess she displayed every time she revisited these all time favorites will probably stay as a landmark of her career. She definitely contributes enormously to turn these folk songs into great standards of Krey˛l Jazz.
Behind the little girl who used to play volley ball in high school, behind the timid and reserved woman that I have met briefly, there was a prominent female jazz vocalist with a strong and dense presence on stage, a woman who made us dream through her love for Martha Jean Claude, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. Now that she has rejoined her idols to close the cycle of that spell she has embraced and lived under all her life, what do we have left?
On the 25th, I saw her passing on a silver horse, galloping proudly toward the eternal plains where nobody can neither hear her voice, nor see her beautiful face. I am deeply saddened by this loss, but I will seek comfort in her music's spell that will certainly outlive the shining star.
Alphonse Piard, Jr.,
November 30, 2013