Wednesday, September 12, 2012

One On One with Jesse Charbonier

This local artist embodies the essence of some of his favorite jazz legends from Billie Holiday to Chet Baker and Johnny Mathis including a bit from the Chairman of the Board himself (Frank Sinatra), blogspot readers. With the magical tone of his falsetto voice, this particular person has been known to make women swoon to blushing, grown men cry from painful memories as well as inspire the feeling of romantic love amongst many couples who have attended his Coq d'Or performances. And recently, he celebrated his first anniversary of performing at the legendary Drake Hotel with an extra special show featuring a full band held inside the famous Palm Court. Also, he performed during the Miss Continental finals at the Vic Theatre and soon will be making his New York Debut at Henry's (the old Birdland Jazz Club). SouthSide highly suggests spending an enchanted evening with your special someone while her friend Jess Charbonier tickles the ears with his magic, voice, and swinging jazz style as you listen to your favorite songs.

Descibing himself as someone "...always curious about the future because there's always something new and exciting on the horizon...", Jesse Charbonier has one unique resume for a multi-talented person, blogspot readers. Besides being an accomplished singer/songwriter, he's also a member of SAG (Screen Actors Guild), film producer (including a couple of movies for Telemundo) and organizer for the Mexican Film Festival of the Americas (which will happen in Chicago later this month). Yet during a recent interview before his Palm Court performance, Jesse revealed a major secret about himself ...well, blogspot readers, it was bombshell that left this reviewer completely floored. She had no idea that his Rhumba Supper Club performance over a year ago was actually his first show even though the way he commanded the stage and handled the audience had her thinking Jesse was a seasoned performer. According to him, he was coming out of a mid life crisis. "...sometimes you feel you're not being yourself as an artist..." Want to hear another bombshell? His audition to perform at the Drake Hotel turned into a last minute fill-in performance for a band which was scheduled to perform for a socialite event yet had to cancel. And the rest, they say, blogspot readers, was history.

So how did Jesse Charbonier fool SouthSide (and others) into thinking he's a seasoned performer? He had some help from a select group of well-known teachers, blogspot readers. Names that have graced stages all over the world ...and you might recognize them too. Through the wonderful use of  modern technology ie YouTube, Jesse took his cues from the greats like Smokey Robinson ("...I appreciate his vocal control and stage presentation...") whom he saw recently at Orchestra Hall performing with Chicago Symphony Orchestra. It was a moving performance for this local jazz artist because Smokey made him cry three times. Other legendary names also include Nat King Cole (if he could, he would like to do a duet with him performing the Chirstmas Song [Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire]), Johnny Mathis (another legendary artist he would love to do a duet or collaboration with) and his favorite artist, Billie Holiday. YouTube helped Jesse with live presentations and examples of showmanship especially when in a concert situations. SouthSide, after attending her fair share of Jesse Charbonier performance at Coq d'Or over the year, has to admit his studying their techniques as well as implementing his own style truly has paid off, blogspot readers, in a big way.

"...I think my real sincere joy is performing and responding to people ...not singing to them but for them..." says Jesse. This reviewer has noted on the many occasions that this jazz vocalist has a special way of connecting with and to his audience not only with the magical tone of his voice or personally meeting them between breaks as he works the room with his charming smile and charismatic persona but with also his eyes, blogspot readers. To do this, Jesse personalizes each song performed by reading and capturing the mood of the audience as well as his own. For example, Chet Baker's My Funny Valentine or Frank Sinatra's Fly Me To The Moon, Jesse might invoke the essence and spirit of the original composer and composition while singing these particular songs straight. However, there might be a night or moment when he might combine a bit of nostalgia and his own personal touch to the song ...and POW - what the magic explode. You never know what might happen. There might be a couple or two dancing on the floor ...a few tears shed ...or just people basking in the glow of romance while he sings. Believe or not, blogspot readers, Jesse never knows how he'll singe his vast repertoire of classic songs (most of them rarely sung Billie Holiday classics like Good Morning Heartache or Our Love Is Here To Stay). "...I sing songs [that] I really enjoy ...[thus making] sincerity come across..." while avoiding what irrates. Another Jesse Charbonier fact revealed to SouthSide during this interview. He notices everything ...and she means EVERYTHING. You may not notice him doing this but while he's performing your favorite songs, he's actually singing/talking with his eyes ...observing the tiniest of details like how people are sitting at the tables to which songs sparks those romantic feelings.

When at the Coq d'Or, Jesse starts off the night with a mellow background presence tailored made for the dinner crowd during the first hour so they can enjoy their meals without a noisy selection of songs. Afterwards (around 11p or midnight), his swing crowd arrives to party and/or for drinks and that's when the show goes into high gear with his selection of upbeat, lively tempo songs especially made for his regulars of dancing couples. As far as a set list to follow along during a Jesse performance, it's wise not expect one. Even this jazz vocalist likes to mix it up a bit for his shows ...sometimes performing requests from the audience or his own personal faves. As SouthSide mentioned earlier, it depends on his mood and the audience seated that night. However,  Jesse took a slightly different turn thus creating a swinging mix of upbeat and romantic classics for his special Palm Court peformance which got off to a bang with songs like Can't Take That Away From Me (by Ella Fitzgerald) to something more romantic for slow dancing like Nat King Cole's Walking My Baby Back Home. Jesse did make this reviewer tear up (again) when performing his sultry Latin-flavor version of Besame Mucho (by Mexican composer Consuelo Velázquez) to which some of the dancers did lovely interpretation of tango and rhumba moves on the floor. One could literally feel Jesse's strong and dynamic falsetto vocal piercing the heartstrings on the lyrics as well as melt during Adrian's (the man on tickling the ivory keys) vibrant piano solo. Esta mucho caliente, blogspot readers. Before taking a break (sometimes he forgets the band need to relax their fingers for a few minutes), he wowed the captive audience with renditions of a Eleanor Fagan (ie Billie Holiday) song dedicated to all of the lovely couples at the Palm Court and Chet Baker's Let's Get Lost. His second set featured more heartwarming songs like Johnny Mathis' Misty (to which brought a smile to SouthSide's mom's eyes and face), Billie Holiday's All Or Nothing At All, Chet Baker's Time After Time and some Frank Sinatra (The Lady Is A Tramp).

During the interview, SouthSide asked Jesse for his opinion why classic jazz songs by Sinatra, Baker, Holiday and etc have a lasting effect on modern music today. He replied "...I think [it's] the quality of the lyrics, the thoughtfulness of the lyrics, accessibility of the melody and [because there's] a lack of new music..." He went to say that new music is nothing more than hooks and effects (ie autotune). Plus each artist featured on the radio today are sounding similiar since vocals are not getting stylists or range to which he calls "...the age of the dance producer..." He used Nicki Minaj and Rhianna as prime examples of how their music is sounding alike though totally far apart as performers. When asked about Lady Gaga, Jesse said she's a performer because she can sing, play an instrument and writes her own songs despite noting her gimmick might get the best of her unlike rival artist Adele who has shown fans the "real" her (as in music and appearance). Jesse attibutes the rising popularity of jazz legends and their music to those people who appreciate quality music. "...they're searching for it ...people are discovering [and rediscovering] the Beatles and other old standards ...of how they feel and express themselves..." Jesse also did raise another interesting point about today's music being played on the radio - "...there aren't many popular love songs or ballads on the radio..." adding that "...even disco and 70s R&B songs had melody, strings, orchestrations and etc ...songs had little stories ...something you could relate too it's all about party-party or boom-boom to bump-n-grind..." Yet, he doesn't fault the mainstream radio for this because in actuality with access to technology this is what the mass majority is listening and buying. So what does Jesse listen to when not crooning his jazz favorites, you might ask, blogspot readers?  He loves to listen to the "old school" R&B like Smokey Robinson and other Motown artists.

So besides celebrating his year anniversary at the Drake Hotel and soon his debut in New York, Jesse Charbonier has a full plate lined up for 2013 according to him "...will explode with a new album and featured film..." His song Let's Not Discuss It will be featured in an upcoming film The Resurrection of Joe Gitone and as film producer, he wrote a film Beautiful Sadness to which he hopes it goes into production soon. Now more about his upcoming album, he has written a few more songs like It Could Be In Paris, You've Been Dreaming and Billie, Tequila and Me (about someone having a bad breakup who listens to Billie Holiday and drinks tequila). He and the band will be working on the recording side during the winter months (ie January and February) since that's when his musicians are available. Or as he states " a musician you don't want to be out..." during the cold winter months.

SouthSide felt overly honored to not only meet and interview this wonderful person but also share his passion for the music amongst her friends who are now also huge Jesse Charbonier fans like her spreading the word about him. For more information about this local jazz artist and when he's performing either at Coq d'Or or Mellow Yellow restaurant (located in Hyde Park neighborhood), visit

Until next time, support your local music scene,

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