"Originally formed in New Orleans, the Denver-based Aural Elixir still holds true to the Big Easy’s more sultry jazz traditions."

Aural Elixir, Partially Domesticated Amazon Exposed, album cover

On their fifth album since the late ’90s, this “rock-folk-jazz fusion” collective, which at one time featured Lynn Drury, has by now pared itself down to a jazz trio format, complete with upright bass and Johnny Vidacovich sitting in on drums. It puts the spotlight solely on remaining original member Jesse Maclaine and her unusual fusion of strong-yet-spacey female singer-songwriters: Joni Mitchell’s sly and perceptive confessional meets Fiona Apple’s confrontational doomed romantic, with little hints of Tori Amos’ gonzo earth mother and Carole King’s practical warmth.

...like Joni, she swoops and dives and repeats rushed phrases,..Her voice is expressive, and her lyrics can be engaging...“You Don’t Need That Pill” is as direct and tough as its title, while the nicely sardonic “All Friends Here” is just hardheaded enough to form a nice contrast with its upbeat stroll... Working some honest-to-goodness New Orleans piano tradition into “We’re All Millionaires” lets some air into her vision: “I can’t wait ’till I’m a millionaire / I’m gonna show the whole world how to care about each other … I’m gonna give it away / Well, most of it, anyway.”

AURAL ELIXIR - a tonic for the heart.

Jesse Maclaine, her piano, and sympathetic musical backing is what makes Aural Elixir a strong offering. "ONE" starts the set and it's a good song. The piano runs, the little twinkling keys. Lyrics that sound great when sung. These aren't typical singer songwriter lyrics but they are affecting poetry and full of imagery - well put together. Her voice dominates " BLURRY " above and beyond her already impressive piano work. A wonderful song, the type of song that's likely to send a chill right up your spine. Over all the music is stripped down, and primitive but within a slightly more accessible song structure."Joint Effort" is a fun song, like the rest of the tunes: repeat playable, certainly. MB 4/2/2007


"These artistic auteurs paint musical pictures both delightfully impressionistic and happily expressionistic."

"This is music from a big kitchen. Aural Elixir's low-key, jazzy folk recalls the Roches attention to vocal textures, speaking half a line then completing it melodically, then fluttering the next thought. ..like sharing jokes and stories on a Thursday night while making dinner and getting drunk on red wine."

When musicians record music, their hope is that listeners will be awed by their compositions’ melodies and riffs, blown away by the lead guitarist’s deconstruction of Django Reinhardt, left speechless by the surreptitious sampling of the Soft Machine, enraptured by the contrapuntal references to Timi Yuro. And sometimes, the best that musicians can expect is that folks will play their CDs while waxing the floors and obliterating mildew in the shower stall.


Take the case of Aural Elixir (led by vocalist/songwriter/keyboardist/trumpeter Jesse Holt) and its Love & Grappling album, recorded at RCA Studio B in Nashville, the same place where Elvis Presley once cut “Blue Christmas.” “I haven’t heard anyone say anything bad about our CD,” explains Ms. Holt. “Everyone seems to like it. The biggest response I get is that the CD is good music for cleaning your house.”


The members of Aural Elixir are from everywhere but here: Jesse Holt, originally from West Palm Beach, Florida, arrived in New Orleans in 1995, accompanied by Aural bassist Jim Ankar, a native of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Vocalist/guitarist/clarinetist Lynn Drury is from Picayune, Mississippi, and drummer Dylan “Sticks” Hicks is a Chicagoan who came to New Orleans to pursue a degree in Jazz Studies at UNO, under the tutelage of Ellis Marsalis.


Music attracted Jesse to New Orleans although not necessarily the music of say, Professor Longhair or “Tuts” Washington: “The first time I came to New Orleans, in ’93, to see Smashing Pumpkins at the State Palace Theatre, I was really into Smashing Pumpkins but when I got here and saw the city, it totally diminished the concert for me because New Orleans was amazing! Growing up in Florida, I had never heard of Mardi Gras. There’s nowhere like New Orleans. I like walking around, just looking at all the old things.


“I don’t think I would write as many songs if I lived anywhere else. New Orleans has the constant stimulation of art and music and culture. It makes me want to write.


“I write songs all the time. I get snippets of ideas while I’m walking through the French Quarter or driving. I do most of my writing while I’m actually sitting at a piano in my house or at someone else’s house. On the song “Wastin’ My Wantin’,” I had this old car—a turbo-diesel Volvo—and this guy ran a stop sign and wrecked my car. I was really attached to the car. The song is a poem I wrote about the car and then I put it to music.”


Precipitation has proved to be another inspirational force: “When I wrote ‘Muse Me,’ it was raining. For some reason, I usually write better in the rain. I had the chord progression in my mind and then I started free-writing—it was just there. It was weird—it’s not often you can just free-write and half an hour later, you’ve got three verses of a song. Sweet! It’s like I was asking for the muse to come because I wanted to write a song. I was sitting in the rain, under a patio, and I was writing this poem, asking the muse for a song. After I was done writing the poem, I thought ‘Wait—my request is a song!’ It was kind of magical.”


About the band’s name, blame it on the original Mother of Invention: “Frank Zappa is one of my ultimate heroes and he made this movie called 200 Motels. There’s a running joke in it about elixirs—how you get this fabulous elixir, good for everything, put it on your car, on your toothbrush, clean your clothes with it. I had that idea and I knew I wanted it to be some type of elixir. I like the concept of having an elixir, which is healing and usually liquid, combined with the word aural, which means for your ears.”


Elixirs, of a Turkish variety, dominate Jesse’s daylight hours. She works as a waitress at the Midnight Express, owned by Fatma and Suleyman Aydin, two of Aural Elixir’s biggest fans and the providers of Turkish treats for the band’s recent CD Release Party at Tipitina’s (where the band will return on July 11).


What’s the coolest Turkish elixir? Jesse suggests Cacik (pronounced Jajik): “It’s like a yogurt-based soup with fresh garlic, dill and cucumbers. In Turkey, it’s really hot over there—they just get cups of ice with Cacik, a little olive oil, and fresh herbs on top, and walk around and drink it. It’s really refreshing and super healthy. I’m learning Turkish word by word. I can say Hello, Goodbye, bread and a couple of other food-related items. Tourists think I’m Turkish.”

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