Is Lucy Dixon the female reincarnation of Fred Astaire? She wouldn’t mind in the least. Astaire is her idol, her model, the man whose films with Ginger Rogers first got the little Lucy interested in tap dancing and singing.
Now living in Paris, the London-born and -bred Dixon has just released her third album, aptly titled “Lulu’s Back in Town.” Following a year-long stint at the Lido in Paris many years ago and time spent on the London musical comedy stage, she hit the road as a dancer for the Stomp troupe. After 15 years of on-and-off touring, she was ready to settle down and chose Paris as her new hometown, in part because of her fond memories of her year at the Lido.
“Looking back,” she says, “although I was a bit embarrassed about it at the time, the Lido was an extraordinary experience. I remember the scene backstage, with all the feathers and jewels, the camels and monkeys, the old French ladies sewing costumes. That’s the spirit of theater that I’d like to bring to music.”
Since her return to Paris, she has been singing and tap-dancing her way into the hearts of Parisians, performing regularly at the Sunset-Sunside and New Morning jazz clubs and other venues.
The new album, her third, is a compilation of her stylings of American swing music, mostly from the 1930s and ’40s, backed by a trio consisting of lead and rhythm guitars and a double bass. Her distinctive voice and the trio’s arrangements, often jazzed up with a good dose of Django Reinhardt-style manouche, can be heard these days on the French radio stations FIP, TSF and France Musique.
Onstage, Dixon is a song stylist and a singer with style but she goes far beyond just singing songs. She loves clothes and dresses up differently for each concert. “It’s important to me not just to look like someone from the ’40s but to combine what’s relevant with what’s irreplaceable from that era.”
Since her trio has no percussion instruments (she’d had her fill of drums with Stomp), she sometimes provides a little percussion herself by tap dancing or beating a small drum. From the little suitcase she brings onstage, she sometimes pulls out a few props to dramatize a song.
“Because of my desire to be an actor, I like to lose myself in the intention, meaning and emotion of a song,” she says. “That’s when I’m happy.”
Each of Dixon’s three albums has been a new departure for her. For the first, “Me Is You Now,” she wrote her own songs and performed them with French musicians. The second, “One Too” (2011), was a collaboration with Professor Inlassable, “a master of sampling.” He sampled and she improvised with her voice. “I’m really proud of that album,” she says, but after dabbling in electronic music, she was ready to go back to acoustic for her new album.
What’s next? Maybe a one-woman show, maybe an album of songs with lyrics by American beat poet Fran Landesman (1927-2011), whom she knew in London. For several years now, Dixon has been experimenting with putting some of her poems to music. “I think she would say that her poems were lyrics. She used to give them away to anyone who would write music for them.”
Whatever the next step is, one thing is sure: Dixon will do it with style.
Click here to listen to “Lulu’s Back in Town.” It can be purchased on iTunes or Amazon.