However compelling jazz instrumentalists might be, a vocal performance is uniquely demanding. Audiences want to hear and to feel the range of emotional registers carried in the lyrics—jubilation, longing, poignancy, each of which has its own expressive demands. So although a singer needs musical skills aplenty, she also needs to be able to ‘perform’ in a way that inhabits the imaginative worlds of song writers, while drawing in her listeners. For all that some numbers require expansive, full-tilt crescendos, a singer needs to be able to cast and hold a spell throughout a set. It’s a form of intimacy that includes but extends well beyond stage presence and audience rapport.
As with all the best musicians, Lee Gibson made it look like second nature: she exuded ease and charm, musical adroitness and obvious delight in delivering each number. She didn’t have to ‘reach’ for anything, whether low and rasping
growls at the bottom or heart-stopping sustains at the top: everything was carried with aplomb and utter conviction. Best of all, she combined musical precision and tonal strength while investing each number with feeling, whatever the tempo. Her rendering of ‘Send in the Clowns’ as a duet with pianist Chris Holmes was a highlight, but the audience also thrilled to her stratospheric finishes to the big show-stoppers.
She received superb support from the Chris Holmes trio; and John Hallam was on hand, as Lee Gibson expressed it, ‘to play every instrument known to man’—in fact, tenor, baritone and clarinet, adding wonderful tone colour throughout both sets.
There’s a certain magic to the best vocal performances; and like all magic acts, we know there’s a great deal of craft, technique and practice behind it, but all we saw—and in this case, heard, too—was the unalloyed magic itself.
J Whitman 11.03.2016