mon 22/07/2024

Jazz Voice 2013, Barbican | reviews, news & interviews

Jazz Voice 2013, Barbican

Jazz Voice 2013, Barbican

The Festival's opening night gala surprises and delights

Vertiginous registral leaps: Eska

Harp glissandos, trilling flutes, the heft of a swinging brass section. Yes, last night's Jazz Voice once again kick-started the EFG London Jazz Festival in typically exuberant fashion. Arranged, scored and conducted by the indefatigable Guy Barker, its epoch-spanning celebration of jazz-related anniversaries, birthdays and milestones was hosted for the second time by Victoria Wood.

First performed in the 1953 film Calamity Jane by Doris Day, Clare Teal's terrific interpretation of the much-recorded standard “Secret Love” provided a textbook lesson in phrasing and singing a legato melodic line. Teal's take on “I'll Never Stop Loving You” - another song associated with Day - was also brilliantly sustained, the singer sculpting each phrase with characteristic expressiveness. And a fine trumpet solo, too, from Martin Shaw.

Jane Monheit's brace of songs included the dramatic textural drop-outs of “Born To Be Blue” and a heart-melting “A Gente Merece Ser Feliz” by the great Brazilian composer and performer Ivan Lins. Channelling that vein of melancholy so characteristic of the best Brazilian music, the switch to Portuguese and the fluidity of the rhythm (excellent work here from percussionist Paul Clarvis) – not to mention the sudden breakdown to just voice and guitar – ensured that this was one of the evening's standouts.

Omar poured all of his heart and soul into 'This Masquerade'

Omar poured all of his heart and soul into Leon Russell's “This Masquerade”, and his self-penned title track from this year's The Man already sounds like a classic in the making. The beautiful harmonic shift at the end was one of many touches of genius.

Singing “I'd Rather Go Blind”, made famous by Etta James, and the Rufus and Chaka Khan hit “You Got The Love”, X Factor and Britain's Got Talent vocal coach Annabel Williams provided the crowd-pleasing vocal gymnastics, with an impressive dynamic range and a killing falsetto.

Being a huge fan of the Kansas City singer-songwriter Krystle Warren, it was pure joy to hear her singular voice couched in the sumptuous orchestral textures of Duke Ellington's “I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart”. This was one of those magical Jazz Voice moments where singer and song are a perfect match. Featuring the always apposite accompaniment of pianist Dave Newton and guitarist Mitch Dalton, Warren's “Miss Celie's Blues” (from The Color Purple) was an oasis of understatement and, in celebration of Joni Mitchell's 70th birthday, her interpretation of the hypnotic, unresolved “Amelia” was quietly dramatic.

Encompassing the effective intercutting between orchestra and voice, powerfully affecting pedal notes and some remarkable use of hocketing, the vocal sextet Vive's performance of “This Is My Father's World” gave just a taste of the harmonic intricacies that this fantastic a cappella group can achieve, as displayed on their recently released debut Album Deluxe.

Eska's singing was filled with such humanity and truth that it went straight to the heart

The beauty of Jazz Voice is its capacity to surprise and this year the palm went to Eska for her remarkable, self-penned “Gatekeeper”. Featuring virtuosic vocalise and vertiginous registral leaps, and a hauntingly enigmatic sound-world, Eska's singing was filled with such humanity and truth that it went straight to the heart. Her interpretation of the Jerome Moross standard “Lazy Afternoon” was languorousness itself, with Barker's orchestration achieving an almost Debussian richness.

Replacing an indisposed Liam Bailey, soul singer Noel McKoy – with luxuriant backing vocals courtesy of Vive – dusted down a terrifically atmospheric “Living for the City” from Stevie Wonder's 1973 album Innervisions. Beginning with an orchestral evocation of the city hubbub - a slightly more angst-ridden updating of Gershwin's An American in Paris – McKoy completely owned the song and the stage, powering over the top of a deep groove set up by bassist Chris Hill (switching from upright to electric) and drummer Ralph Salmins.

Rounding off the night with a James Brown medley, Barker's arrangements were superb. I'd love to hear both of his purely orchestral arrangements - “Trumpet Blues and Cantabile” and a stunning Wayne Shorter/Quincy Jones medley – again. Perhaps the BBC might be persuaded to issue a Best of Jazz Voice CD at some point? Led by an infectiously foot-tapping Sonia Slany, the 40-piece orchestra dazzled at every turn.

Led by an infectiously foot-tapping Sonia Slany, the 40-piece orchestra dazzled at every turn


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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