Joanna Eden’s “Sondheim and Me” – 12 July 2019

“Joanna
Gigs with surprises are often the best. This one was packed with them. There was the odd mutter before the gig that “it won’t be jazz” and some of it wasn’t but all of the numbers gripped the audience and made them smile.

The players were Joanna Eden on vocals and keyboard, Gerry Hunt on soprano and tenor sax, flute, clarinet, guitar and ukelele (really), Russell Swift on bass and George Double on drums. Another delightful surprise was Lee MacDonald, a superb musical comedy singer who arrived to sing the fifth number of the first set.

The music was mostly Sondheim, mostly jazz interpreted and all had very fine arrangements. Joanna gave us the background to each song and her relation to it.

So we begin. Michael announces the band, who are on stage. A hiatus. Joanna runs onto the stage, late for the audition and full of apologies. She is permitted to sing, and sings from the front mic “Broadway Baby” from Sondheim’s “Broadway Baby” accompanied initially by solo ukelele. The audience is caught. Half way through, she says “I can play piano too”, and finishes the song at the keyboard with the rest of the band. This woman will never have to play the maid.

A massive thank you to the rest of the band. I wanted to concentrate on the singing, but Gerry, Russell and George played beautifully, and each had excellent solos.

Surprise number 3. Lee arrives, and sings “Not Getting Married” from Company. The song is the story of Amy, with stage fright about marrying Paul, with help by the wedding planner. Lee MacDonald sings all three parts. Joanna and Lee do a stunning duet (not the only one) in “Ladies Who Lunch” with Gerry’s soprano sax making appropriate comments.

Joanna also gave us three of her own songs. “Soul Cocaine” was a birthday present. IKEA was a brilliant song about DIY. Lee sang “L’Oreal Man”, a waltz about an old lady and a young man.

I am a Sondheim fan, and I found the evening totally enchanting. I spoke with some members of the audience who were not previously interested in musical theatre. They are going to buy a bunch of Sondheim (and Joanna).

No gig next week, but on July 26th, we get the music of McCoy Tyner from a top drawer sextet. John Donaldson Piano, Greg Heath Tenor Sax, Jason Yarde Alto Sax, Graeme Flowers Trumpet/Flugel, Simon Thorpe Bass, Tristan Banks Drums

Take care,
Dave

Art Themen Trio – 5 July 2019

“Art

The Art Themen Trio gave us a brilliant gig. Art played mostly tenor sax and some soprano. Pete Whittaker played organ, so that is chordal plus bass. George Double excelled as always on drums.

There are always high expectations when a legend like Art, who has worked with just about everybody important, arrives. Expectations exceeded. Pete is a consummate organist. His bass lines are always lovely. George played his ass off as always, but always to the room – a sound man’s dream.

The first song set the tone. It was Dexter Gordon’s “Cheesecake”, up tempo and jolly. Pete has a breathless solo on this one. Art make a thorough exploration of the altissimo range of the tenor. George’s accompaniment was excellent and worth listening to on its own. Art’s conversations with the audience about the history and characters of the pieces were much appreciated. However Art’s jokes are sometimes worse than mine (for example of mine, see end).

It just got better from there. Lots of stunning solos, excellent arrangements, great communication. A couple of songs really caught my mind. Stan Tracey’s suite “The Cardiff Chapter” had a tune “Funky Day in Cardiff Bay”. The trio had so much fun with it. Herby Hancock’s “What If I Don’t” had Art playing both tenor and soprano, a wonderful set of 4s with Art, Pete and George, and breathtaking flows of ideas from all.

Please may they be back.

Next week the lovely Joanna Eden will bring “Sondheim and Me”. Joanna has a beautiful voice, a musician’s sensibility, and great skill on the piano. With her will be Gerry Hunt on reeds, Russell Swift on bass and George Double on drums. I am not sure if he is sleeping over.

Take care,

Dave

Statistically, 6 out of 7 dwarves are not Happy.