Singer Adi Braun has fun with the rules of the game

The Toronto Star
October 2005
Geoff Chapman

Toronto-born Adi Braun grew up in Germany, spending her first two decades there in a seriously musical family in love with the classics. Both parents were opera singers (father Victor was a celebrated baritone with the Canadian Opera Company) and you may have come across her younger brother Russell, a celebrated baritone in his own right.

Adreanna Braun, now Adi, first studied piano and despite no formal voice training made a tape recording of her own songs when she was 18, but her parents insisted she follow family tradition. After her return to Canada she studied at the Royal Conservatory and took a vocal performance degree at the University of Toronto, soon afterwards giving recitals and performing often with the COC. "I was quietly devastated when my parents decided I had to have classical voice training," she said in an interview. "When I sang, I never felt I could express myself fully. It was a straightjacket. I was always in my home studio and my friends were into pop and jazz."

Six years ago that all changed. Her partner Linda Ippollito, a classical pianist and composer, entered her in a talent competition held at (the now-defunct) Gatsbys on Church St. She won.

"So three months after I'd sung Musetta in La Boheme I had a real sense of joy. I met Doug Riley and not long after came the CD Delishious," a lively creation that officially introduced Braun to the jazz world.

Now there's a new album. The Rules of the Game (Blue Rider) goes beyond "cabarazz," a term invented by a young nephew to accommodate the cabaret element in what's definitely the adaptable approach of a jazz singer. It's very good. Lovers of good jazz singing should head to the Montréal Bistro, where Braun is releasing the album over three nights, accompanied by pianist Riley, tenor saxophonist Perry White, bass Steve Wallace and drummer John Sumner (replaced by Terry Clarke tomorrow and Saturday).

There are 13 tunes that show off the singer's big range, her playfulness as well as her knack of getting to the heart of the song while making it all sound deceptively easy. Adi is upbeat these days. "Things are going beautifully. I can't control events, they just happen. I would have liked to have done this record earlier, but it didn't happen, and now I feel only half of my music is on the CD. I toured Delishious in Germany (where one critic dubbed her a power-frau) but now I'm concentrating on Canada."

There are sweet standards in the collection. Braun's technique is terrific, the phrasing's sophisticated and she's at her best with Shirley Eikhard tunes like "About Last Night" and "If We Had Never Met," Gordon Lightfoot's "Beautiful" and offerings from the Breithaupt brothers such as the title piece and "Show Me Yours." There's a delightful soft sultriness to "Guanabara Bay," by Eikhard and Andrée Bernard and cool urbanity elsewhere. A new song will be unveiled at the Bistro shows.

Braun, who says she's aware of the dangers of over-presenting herself, feels her sophomore album is more authentically her, and richer in expressive freedom. At some point she wants to record an album of Canadian songs — "it's my duty to pay attention to them. I'm obsessed with the heartfelt simplicity of the music but at the same time it lets me explore them."

Braun writes poems, is interested in spirituality, loves the "soil therapy" of gardening, likes to travel and play with different musicians and is seriously happy with her work. That's delicious for her — and for all of us.