Giulia y Los Tellarini plus the Bright-Size Gypsies
(Purcell Room, London Jazz Festival, November 19th 2009, review of the Bright-Size Gypsies by Rob Mallows)
Simon Harris and The Bright Size Gypsies (photo above in Symphony Hall, Birmingham- credit: Gary Corbett) are the sort of act which would normally go under my musical radar. I’ve never listened to gypsy jazz in anger, but Harris’ modern twist on this old-school style, with ska and pop stylings mixed in with Django-inspired guitars, worked on the whole. This was a fun 50 minute set. When musicians on stage are clearly having a blast, that transmits itself to the listener.
The music was lively – the cover of Billie Jean by Michael Jackson was an odd idea, but none the less effective; their play on the Jaws theme with Shark Eyes was more infectious than swine flu. I was less sure about Chinese Cowboy, which I’d file under the rare heading of comedy jazz – but totting it up there were more hits than misses. My friend Mark felt the sound wasn’t sufficiently ‘gypsy’; for me that was more of a good thing.
Simon Harris’s cheeky chappy stage persona – like a jazz Phil Daniels channelling Ian Dury via The Specials – created a good rapport with the audience, four of whom upped and left after one song – what gives there? – and he was ably supported by some great musicians.
Mentioned in despatches should be Frank Moon for his energetic acoustic guitar and banjo playing; the all female rhythm section of bassist Ruth Goller – taking time off from Acoustic Ladyland – and drummer Joelle Barker who marshalled the tempo changes well; and Dave Shulman’s clarinet and sax sound was straight out of a wartime dance hall. Bev Lee Harling from Mediaeval Baebes and Esther Dee on vocals were compelling, too – their coquettish dancing, corsages and close harmony doo-wop singing suggesting a couple of would-be forces sweethearts. Easy on both the eye and the ear!
This is what festivals should be about: uncovering something new and giving it a go.
Giulia y Los Tellarini. It was quite simple to see how this was supposed to work. All that Giulia Tellarini needed to do was to bounce onto the Purcell Room stage with her Sinead O’Connor crewcut and her black velvet mini-dress and high heels, to offer warm greetings from Barcelona to a full house straight in from the cold of a London night in November. Perhaps mention Woody Allen and the film. Instant sunshine, guaranteed.
So far, so good, perhaps. But, at least for this pair of ears, that was as good it got. Giulia- an air pilot’s daughter from Treviso by way of Cottesmore, Leicestershire and Barcelona has that kind of voice which doesn’t so much cut through textures as strip paint. And the band, from one of Europe’s great maritime cities, were barely seaworthy. In fact, the approximate bassist didn’t provide any sort of anchor; the tuning of the other three plucked instruments made me feel a little seasick; and the band seemed to find it hard to navigate its way through a modulation without losing a player or two overboard.
I recognize this type of band, delivering music with an energy which can be irresistibly raw and gritty. But Los Tellarini were having a distinctly off night.