Melody Gardot captivates audience at Spain jazz fest

Vitoria: American Grammy-nominated jazz artist Melody Gardot shined on stage here at the Vitoria-Gasteiz Jazz Festival, delivering an inspired performance whose warmth conjured up the climes of Cape Verde or Brazil.

Despite the large size of the 4,000-seat Mendizorrotza Sports Center in the capital of Spain`s Basque Country, the acoustics facilitated a strange proximity between the artist and the audience that packed the venue Thursday evening.

An exceptional rhythm section (percussion and double bass), guitar and wind instruments complemented Gardot`s piano and extraordinary voice during the hour-and-a-half performance, which was notable for its precision and attention to detail.

Gardot`s voice inspires even when she is merely talking, but she immediately gains the audience`s attention when she starts to sing.

The 28-year-old`s appeal stems largely from the public`s admiration of the challenges she has overcome and her ability to compose, sing on stage and transmit such serenity despite the head and spinal cord injuries she suffered in a November 2003 accident.

Gardot was hit by a car in her native Philadelphia while cycling at age 19, suffering severe neural injuries that left her hypersensitive to light (she wears dark sunglasses at almost all times) and sound.

At the time of the accident, she was playing piano at clubs in her native Philadelphia, but she shifted to jazz during her months-long convalescence.

American jazz artists Branford Marsalis and Chick Corea and Spanish flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia will perform on the final two nights of the festival, which began Tuesday and concludes Saturday.