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Issue 1084

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Jazz Voice: London Jazz Festival - Barbican 14/11/08

Jamie Cullum: Jazz Voice at the Barbican 14/11/08
Jamie Cullum: Jazz Voice at the Barbican 14/11/08 Melody Gardot, Jamie Cullum, Carleen Anderson: Jazz Voice at the Barbican 14/11/08 Liane Carroll & Cleveland Watkiss: LONDON JAZZ FESTIVAL - BARBICAN 14/11/08 Nate James: LONDON JAZZ FESTIVAL - BARBICAN 14/11/08

The London Jazz Festival got off to a roaring start with it̢۪s century of jazz voice celebration featuring a whole galaxy of stars both british and transatlantic. Following on from last year̢۪s 'We Love Ella' gala, this star studded line up, once more delved into the american songbook with much relish and verve.

Drawing on the mystical number 8 – which just so happens to link some of the biggest jazz composers/songwriters of the 20th century including Irving Berlin (b. 1888) and George Gershwin (b.1898), was the special theme of the evening. This performance had all the hallmarks of being a classic night of jazz ‘s most iconic period and a treat rediscovering timeless classics. Commencing proceedings was the cool and elevating Mr Cleveland Watkiss whose poise and delivery shone throughout his interpretation of Berlin’s 'Blue skies'. Mind you, it did help have such a wondrous orchestra backing him and MD/conductor Guy Barker, dynamic as ever, was in his element leading from the front. That said, Watkiss did the song justice and finished it off with his highly individual (fire in a pet shop) scatting. Sterling stuff!

Exit CW job done - enter versatile irish singer Christine Tobin, fast becoming a diva (for all the right reasons btw!) certainly livened up the men in the audience with a stylish take of 'Happy Talk.' This year̢۪s winner and deservedly so, of the BBC Jazz award was in fine fettle,her sexy,earthy tones could not be disguised, this girl oozes jazz, bone deep and gorgeous-just like her! Master of Ceremonies Clarke Peters gave the show panache and style, this man was born on a stage and came out with his lines learnt-no doubt! This was an old-time, well run revue chivied along nicely by CP and the night just kept getting better and better.

Bacharach̢۪s(b.1928) 'What The World Needs Now' was handled exquisitely by the highly experienced and talented Madeline Bell, who undoubtedly was one of the original young gifted and black singers to hit our shores back in the 60̢۪s.This inimitable and classy singer evoked the spirit of Nina Simone on this universally anthemic yet still relevant song-good to see this class act relishing her moment.

The stars kept coming like a convention on the milky way! Liane Carroll rocked in with a fast swinging 'Lover Come Back To Me' her Ella inspired scatting raised the roof propelled by the agile solos of Sammy Wayne (alto sax) and trumpeter Martin Shaw, special mention must also go to the fab orchestra (as tight as a 14 collar on a 16 neck!) inspired by the beautifully turned out and talented Mr (Ripley) himself Guy Barker-swing it daddio!

Melody Gardot made an alluring entrance (think Jessica Rabbit meets Veronice Lake!) and enthralled all with her sultry pitch perfect palette, still only in her early 20̢۪s,this girl promises much and is a supremely confident performer playing some laconic, yet genteel guitar to Guy̢۪s Harmon muted melodies, very heady stuff-oh the sweet smell of success!

Nate James too acquitted himself nicely with a Quincey Jones composition and Ray Charles standard 'In The Heat of the Night,' like young rookie footballers playing against Galacticos guys like Nate are fearless to take on the heavyweights, big boots to fill in deed! Surprise guest slipping in on piano, Jamie Callum, tackled Charles̢۪ 'I Got A Woman' with his usual youthful energy and self- assuredness. Everyone was having a swell time.

Other highlights,the great Nigel Kennedy, popped over from Poland to bring us a Grapelli classic just his good self and The Orchestra̢۪s fine guitarist Mitch Dalton (hey Mitch I bet you̢۪re glad Marvin Hamlisch wasn̢۪t conducting!) On a solemn note it was good that Nigel dedicated his evocative 'Hills of Saturn' to the late Esbjorn Svensson, a loss many jazz lovers find hard to accept.

Carleen Anderson, proved she̢۪s just at home with jazz as she is with soul soared imperiously through the Ella owned 'The Man I love.' Anderson̢۪s terrific range was in evidence as she ascended smoothly into her high register bringing the full sentiment home of this towering classic

And just for good measure a good old fashion ending with all the stars carousing harmoniously and in line together, took the show out on a high –fantastic programming care of the barbican and a worthy spectacular to behold! Here’s to the opening of this glorious capital’s swinging (yes all the 8th notes too!) Jazz festival.
Words Emrys Baird

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