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Before she opens her mouth to sing, there is something queenly about Germaine Bazzle. It's there when she's offstage, taking a break, sitting emphatically alone at the far end of a bar and drinking coffee. It's there when she's at home in the 7th Ward, recumbent on a taut Victorian sofa. It's there when she's teaching music appreciation at Xavier Prep, trying to drum operatic scores into the minds of adolescent girls. Widely considered one of the best jazz singers this city has ever produced, Bazzle has never received commensurate acclaim. In fact, her career has been one of remarkably low visibility: no recordings, no tours, no national press.
Bazzle, who is in her early 50s, guides her life in her own steady way. She has been performing in local nightclubs for the past 20 years. for many of those years, she has also taught full-time. After a gig, with the smell of the barroom in her clothes, she gets home about 1:30 a.m., steals a scant night's sleep, and arrives at Xavier Prep early the next morning wearing smart color-coordinated outfits and flawless cranberry nail polish. There, she becomes Miss Bazzle.
Still, when Bazzle is up on stage, all you see is the grace, the discipline so ingrained it forgets itself. the kind of high style that comes from a deep place. her smile or her tall slender body contorted by song. Bazzle standing against a red stage curtain with cigarette smoke clinging in its folds. Bazzle in a liquid evening gown and pearls.
Her voice is a rich, dusky contralto, full of quirks and surprises. Her sound is uncommon, unhummable, idiosyncratic, real. As one music critic put it, she is an acquired taste. Her repertoire consists, for the most part, of classic tunes written by Cole Porter, George Gershwin and Duke Ellington, freshly interpreted and given new arrangements.