This was wonderfully vibrant and robust music-making from start to finish—a real delight, in part because it was abundantly clear how much fun the band was having, even while they delivered a musically intense and highly varied programme.
Lindsay Hannon’s voice is strong and clear, and she is remarkable for her tonal modulation and stylistic adaptability. Choice of repertoire can be a stern test for a jazz vocalist: variety is welcome, but if much of the material is outside a singer’s main strengths, even the best instrumentalists will struggle to patch over weaknesses. There wasn’t a hint of this—and this in a programme that included Cole Porter, Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell and some fresh takes on old classics—not least, ‘What a Little Moonlight Can Do.’ Sultry lows, joyous highs and everything lese in between: Lindsay Hannon not only had the vocal resources but also the deftness and timing to deploy them to fullest advantage. Perhaps the most remarkable number of the evening—and one that showed the subtlety of the band and how well integrated were the singer and musicians—was a striking performance of the seldom-performed ‘Miss Otis Regrets.’ Played with minimal, sensitive accompaniment, theirs was a heart-shredding performance.
This was not a singer + semi-detached trio, but a wonderfully coherent band—and every number demonstrated that in abundance. All three instrumentalists turned in stellar performances. James Harrison is a stunningly resourceful pianist. His ‘fast’—and even his fortissimo—was never furious: his lines were remarkably clean and well articulated, but perhaps the true measure of the depth of his skill was that he so keenly attuned and alert to opportunities to provide unexpected embellishments, accents and unexpected colours—most notable in his quieter accompaniments, but also even in the midst of the most startling of his solo flights. And throughout, he appeared so utterly relaxed it was possible to forget what skill and concentration were involved.
It is difficult to imagine a more suitable bass player for these proceedings; indeed, they would have had a wholly different character with anyone other than John Pope, whose playing was neatly poised between his virtuosic flights (including extended bow work) and his close and sensitive support for Lindsay Hannon. Russ Morgan provided complementary drumming, always apt to the needs of the tune; and his solo turn, at the end of the second set, demonstrated how much musical inventiveness he had at his disposal.
Lindsay Hannon’s presence was commanding without being overbearing; and her stagecraft—charming, but minimal—allowed the music to speak for her and for the band. Perhaps it could be bottled and distributed widely.
We all have reasons aplenty to be grateful for a century of jazz recordings, but this gig was a vivid reminder that there is no substitute for live music and the pleasures of watching creative interaction, in the moment. Best of all, these splendid musicians had a particularly strong line in dissolving the boundaries between ‘at work’ and ‘at play.’
J. Whitman 14th May 2016 ©