Jazz @ 5
(Gulbenkian Theatre Cafe, University of Kent, Canterbury, March 24th 2010, review by Adam Tait)
On the last Wednesday of the month the Gulbenkian Theatre Cafe at the Univerity of Kent hosts an informal Jazz show, performed by staff and students of the University.
The atmosphere is relaxed, chatty . Although there had not been much publicity about the event, enough people had managed to hear about it to fill the cafe/bar , with some people even being disappointed to find that there were no free flat surfaces to rest their cups of coffee on. A full venue then, but with a deep sense of relaxation permeating the room.
The performers, who changed their line-up from song to song, are not professional jazz musicians, but they were impressive and skilful. The instrumentals were suitably mellow and understated. Female vocalists treated the audience to beautifully delicate renditions, and the whole performance was surprisingly stylish.
The best things about this performance, though, was the way in which it was both the centre of the audience’s attention, while at the same time perfect background music for five o’clock on a Wednesday. In some way or other the performance seemed to be exactly what the patrons of the Gulbenkian Cafe were looking for, even if we didn’t all realise we were looking for anything at all.
For those people who turned up at 5 o’clock exactly and sat in front of the stage waiting to be impressed, the performers were the perfect focal point. Similarly, for those people who’d wondered in with a paper and sat staring out of the window, the music provided the perfect background soundtrack. And for those people who flitted between the two, “it’s really nice to just sit here and be sung at”, as one of my friends put it.
A brief conversation with pianist James Cross and saxophonist Will Rathbone revealed that the musicians get together to practise for a short time on Wednesday morning. You wouldn’t know, ensemble was generally very tight.
The Jazz @ 5 performance perfectly fitted its time and place, and even the overcast darkening skies outside seemed to add to the appropriateness of finding yourself in quiet contemplation, seated in the Gulbenkian Cafe.