Neil Tesser for the Chicago Reader is enchanted.



Wednesday 2/5, Symphony Center—

With her throaty trill, floppy hat, and accordion-and-violin accompaniment, Chicago's Claudia Hommel plays the role of chanteuse-boulevardiere to the hilt.

It’s not Piaf, though, nor Dietrich or Garland that she's modeling herself on; instead, Hommel’s glassy tone and blithe celebrations of life make her seem a latter-day female counterpart to Maurice Chevalier, the quintessential French entertainer who successfully made the transition from the cabarets of early-20th-century Paris to the Broadway stage and Hollywood.

Like Chevalier, she sings of love and even lust without sounding desperate or wanton, and she incorporates the approach to sex that the French consider their birthright: the idea that if you simply think about it all the time, consider it perhaps the only thing that truly matters, you turn it into a subject fit for all and immune from leers.

In the music Hommel presents—French standards like “Autumn Leaves” and “C'est si bon,” as well as lesser-known tunes, in English and French—this attitude plays a role as important as the voice itself. Hommel, with her lovely intonation and clear timbre, wins on both counts.

She brings a terrific trio—pianist Bob Moreen, bassist Jim Cox, and accordionist Chuck Kopp—to the Symphony Center Club series, which includes dinner as well as the show, and she offers an unspoken guarantee that you'll think you paid for the evening in euros.