It's kind of impossible not to name-check Edith Piaf when talking about Zaz.
Not only do they share a powerful set of pipes, but Zaz has often dipped a toe into Piaf's bombastic repertoire. And they both built up their chops by singing on the streets: Before she became a multi-platinum recording artist in Europe, Zaz would set up on a Montmartre street corner with a bass player and a guitar and make rent. (A la the clip below, where she covers--what else?--a Piaf song.)
On the heels of releasing her self-titled album in the U.S. -- a debut that spent nine weeks topping the charts in her homeland -- the 31-year-old is playing a rash of NYC shows this week: Rockwood Music Hall on July 30 and City Winery on July 31 (full disclosure: with my side project), culminating in a cozy show at the Cooper Square Hotel on August 1.
Because the influences on her album range from the aforementioned Piaf to the jazz manouche of Django Reinhardt, and because she'd also be right at home next to, say, DeVotchka, while not shying away from tackling pop ballads or weaving in African or South American rhythms, we wanted a peek at her eclectic music collection. She sent over a very summery playlist of extremes, from Ella Fitzgerald to a Congolese pop star to Björk.
“Lost Ones” by Lauryn Hill
A fantastic song. I love the flow, the groove, the vocals.
“Oublie Loulou” by Charles Aznavour
It swings, and he delivers a perfect vocal performance.
“Entre dos Aguas” by Paco de Lucia
An improvised rumba from 1976 by [Spanish flamenco guitarist] Paco de Lucia. [Ed's note: The '70s hair in this clip alone is worth the click.]
Gling-Glo by Björk
I can't pick just one song. The whole album is perfect jazz. And Bjork is amazing.
“One Note Samba” by Ella Fitzgerald
Just makes you laugh!
“Sang Fézi” by Wyclef Jean featuring Lauryn Hill
Lauryn again. This song makes me happy! Wyclef Jean is a great artist, and Lauryn is just a goddess.
“Back to the Middle” by India.Arie
Another goddess. I love her acoustic soul songs.
Bobby McFerrin & Richard Bona, just jamming
I listen to this improvised duet, but I really love both artists too. Their voices both touch me, and [Cameroonian jazz musician] Richard Bona is an amazing bass guitar player. Plus, what a vocalist... you need to meditate a lot to reach that level. He was one of my first concerts and I remember it so well. I've never been a superfan but if I had been it would be for him.
“Yeraz” by Levon Minassian
When I'm stressed and I can't calm down, I listen to this and it makes me cry—it invokes images of the past, of living in perfect harmony with oneself, the kind of feeling so hard to find in the world today.
“5e Soleil” by Keny Arkana
Keny Arkana is a French rap artist—she's got powerful flow. The lyrics are about hope for the future and mean a lot to me.
“Bom Feeling” by Sara Tavares
Sara Tavares is a Portuguese singer-songwriter. I listen to this song from morning 'til night. It's a useful tool, because it just fills the heart with happiness. Thank you, Sara!
“Je Me Suis Fait Tout Petit” by Georges Brassens
I just love it. Brassens was one of the great poets.
“Tu Es L'infini” by Lokua Kanza
[This Congolese artist]'s songs and voice make me feel happy, and they mean a lot to me.