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ReVoice! 2014: Welcoming the cream of international jazz singing to London | reviews, news & interviews

ReVoice! 2014: Welcoming the cream of international jazz singing to London

ReVoice! 2014: Welcoming the cream of international jazz singing to London

Georgia Mancio's vocal jazz festival celebrates its fifth anniversary with an expanded line-up

Sandra Nkake: French-Cameroonian chicPhoto: Benjamin Colombel

Acclaimed British jazz singer Georgia Mancio celebrates five years of ReVoice!, her festival of jazz song, with an expanded event – now twice its original length – beginning next week. Mancio’s programming combines some of the most charismatic and original performers worldwide to create ten concerts (some with several performances) that display the art of jazz singing at its cosmopolitan best.

In some quarters, vocal jazz can still be too closely associated with restaurant crooners to be widely recognised as a serious musical form. While all of these performers are highly entertaining, and most would accompany cocktails supremely well, it would be a shame to obscure the delicacy of their artistry with the clatter of glassware.

Closest to that cabaret tradition is the duo of Claire Martin and Joe Stilgoe (son of Richard), who open the festival on 9th October. Both were already well known as soloists before coming together in a duo that’s quickly gathering a reputation as one of the best musical nights out anywhere. Uniting sublime musicianship -– Martin is a persuasive candidate for best jazz singer in Britain today – with Stilgoe’s cabaret exuberance and wicked humour, they create an evening of effortless musical style, drawing on the American songbook as well as more recent adaptations and originals.

Christine Tobin (14 October) won the 2013 Edinburgh Festival and 2014 Parliamentary Jazz awards, and she’s a singer-songwriter who combines the rarest musical sophistication with stunning emotional impact. As a songwriter, her range is immense, from her own settings of W.B Yeats to versions of Leonard Cohen. What’s more, with guitarist Phil Robson and pianist Liam Noble, her band contains some of the most outstanding jazz musicians of their generation, playing at the peak of their careers. A fantastic opportunity to uncover a brilliant corner of British music.  

The cream of British jazz singing is also represented by the genuinely hilarious Ian Shaw, as funny as Stilgoe, and much dirtier, and the charmingly passionate Liane Carroll. Both of these, however, perform regularly on the British scene. A couple of the international singers Mancio has assembled are, by contrast, infrequent performers in UK, and also offer something completely different.    

Cameroonian-French singer/songwriter Sandra Nkake (16 October) performs an extraordinary noirish soul-jazz with flautist and composer, Jî Drû. Little known in the UK, but a popular figure in West Africa, Brazil and France, where she won the best act prize at the Marciac Jazz Festival (2012), Sandra Nkake’s music combines the vocal dexterity of jazz, with the immediate emotional impact of soul. Her song arrangements, often with Drû’s flute the principle effect, have a striking sensuality.  

Sensuality of a more vernacular kind characterises Vinx De'Jon Parrette (15 October). His style could be described as soul, with a touch of Barry White, punctuated by a primal hand-clap rhythm. He will certainly contrast with the Cole Porter. Meanwhile, Carmen Lundy (17/18 October), is one of America’s most distinguished and prolific jazz singers and composers. Her work fits a more conventional jazz mould than Vinx's but has a distinctive soul character of its own, which colours her many collaborations with musicians such as Mulgrew Miller and Courtney Pine.

Not forgetting Mancio herself, of course, who sings at every gig, either supporting or as the main act. Her repertoire of standards, with a strong international flavour (she sings in five languages), is acknowledged as one of the most stylish and diverse on the jazz scene, and she is a widely sought-after act, both live and on CD.

Overleaf: watch Carmen Lundy perform "In Love Again"

Vinx's style could be described as soul, with a touch of Barry White, punctuated by a primal hand-clap rhythm

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