What a way to launch this year’s Jazz @ 5 season.
A lively Gulbenkian Theatre foyer was abuzz with anticipation on Wednesday evening, in expectation of the first gig in the new season. Regulars Will Rathbone (sax) and Andrew Kitchin (guitar) fronted the band, with Dan Harding on piano and Sophie Meikle on bass – drafted in for the occasion, and making his Jazz @ 5 debut, was drummer Matt Bardrick.
The gig opened with a welcome return to jazz at Kent for Jo Turner, who sang last year and opened the gig with I Wish I Knew How It Feels To Be Free, delivered in a bravura style; she followed this with These Foolish Things. Hot on the heels of her performance at the Scholars’ Festival Lunchtime Concert last Friday was Lena Younes, who sang Lullaby of Birdland and then Fats Waller’s Ain’t Misbehavin’ in a reading that opened slowly and lyrically, and then moved into a brisk swing tempo.
Also making their jazz debut was Steph Richardson, who showed great presence in her confident performances of In A Mellow Tone and Route 66; she held the attention of a rapt audience, and you could have heard a pin drop – in fact, we heard a glass tumble to the floor, but it didn’t dispel the mood.
Next came a duo, newcomers Martin Lestra on guitar and vocalist Camille, who played Edith Piaf’s La Vie en Rose in a lively swing style.
After an instrumental version of Blue Bossa lent the evening a Latin air, with some robust solos from Will on tenor sax and dexterous lines from Andrew on guitar, Jo Gray gave a lulling rendition of Blue Moon. Steph Richardson ended her set with a slow exploration of Cry Me A River that was sure-footed and well crafted, and Jo Gray then brought the evening to a close with a delicate Baby, I’m A Fool of which even Melody Gardot herself would have been proud.
A confident opening gig from everyone involved, and a sign of some great jazz music-making to come in the year ahead. Catch Jazz @ 5 next month, Wednesday December 1, when there’ll be a seasonal flavour and one or two surprises. And if you can’t wait that long, we’ll be appearing at the Music Society Showcase on Saturday 20 November, alongside the Big Band, Concert Band, Chamber Choir and other entertainment. Don’t miss either gig!
Pictures from the gig, courtesy of the photographic artistry of Mick Norman.