The album’s title is a homage, sidestep and claim all at once. It is the literal translation of Giant Steps, the legendary John Coltrane standard from 1959, which Camille Bertault made her own in a YouTube video, including every note of the saxophone solo and marking the start of her rise in spring 2015.
In the album Pas de géant, she turns this virtuoso exercise into a phenomenal, liberated vocal display, explaining, sharing and declaring her passion - the astonishing song Là où tu vas [Wherever You Go]. This funny, erudite text is both humble and provocative. She asked Ravi Coltrane for permission to put it over Giant Steps and record - “We met up, I explained my approach and he accepted”.
And what was her approach? Words, rhythms, notes, a staggering way of having its meaning rush around at breakneck speed over music at the top of its game; sweet, free and unbridled in style. In truth, Coltrane has a bigger influence on her than do singers, even Betty Carter or Ella Fitzgerald.
But it's also worth listening out for the clear paradoxes she writes into the lyrics for Certes [Sure] (“Certes, il faut ne pas trop penser / Penser en s’remplissant la panse / De vide gras et d’existence / Et se concentrer sur sa chance” [“Sure, don’t think too much/Think while you fill your belly/With fatty nothingness and life/And concentrate on your luck”]). And then there’s the textual farce of Comptes de fées [Fairy tales] (“Elle c’est la fée, lui c’est le comte / Des contes de fées, il en raconte / Sur le contrat, il conte fleurette / Vite fait bien fait à fée Clochette” [“She’s the fairy, he’s the noble/He tells fairy tales/About the contract, he woos Tinker Bell/Quickly and masterfully”]).
And she sings the aria from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations at full speed, covers Serge Gainsbourg’s Comment te dire adieu, the surrealist Conne by Brigitte Fontaine and La Femme coupée en morceaux by Michel Legrand, written and sung in Brazilian over some Wayne Shorter and in French over Bill Evans.
Her giant steps go in ten different directions at once, weaving Les Double Six together with Helen Merrill, Claude Nougaro with Meredith d’Ambrosio, the films of Jacques Demy with Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, Jacques Loussier with André Minvielle... Her thoughts: “I wanted an album which reflected me rather than one which reflected its own genre.”