First up on the Purcell Room stage was the Scottish quartet, Brass Jaw – Ryan Quigley (trumpet), Paul Towndrow (alto sax), Konrad Wiszniewski, (tenor sax) and Allon Beauvoisin (baritone sax).
Their arrangements were meticulous, their rhythms impeccably tight and their tempi impressively precise throughout, and all without the safety net of a rhythm section. Each of the band members compose for the group and noteworthy originals played this evening were, ‘Well Dented Clavicle’ by Towndrow and ‘Rochester Rumble’ by Beauvosin.
Wiszniewski, and Towndrow played the most explosive solos of the foursome. Quigley seemed to have the lung capacity of all three sax players together and Beauvoisin’s articulation was immense. Brass Jaw finished their well received forty five minute set to rapturous applause.
At the tender age of 16, Montreal-born Nikki Yanofsky has already caused quite a stir. Critics compare her to Ella Fitzgerald and the majority comment on how her voice belies her young age. Nikki came bounding onto the stage and her friendly demeanour made her immediately likeable. She opened with ‘Take the A Train’. Her voice was beautiful with meltingly mellow tones in the lower register and pitch perfect power in the high register.
Introducing ‘You’ve Changed’, Yanofsky endearingly recalls, “I’ve been singing this song since I was like 12” as though it was centuries, and not merely four years, ago. Nikki’s rendition of Ella Fitzgerald’s ‘You’ll Have to Swing it (Mr Paganini)’ was simply excellent and her vivaciousness poured out of every Ella inflection which she sang perfectly.
I was so mesmerised by Nikki and her confident ability to engage with the audience that I completely forgot to take note of the band until halfway through her set. Andy Dacoulis (guitar), John Sadowy (piano), Rob Fahie (bass) and Richard Irwin (drums) were slick, accomplished players who provided excellent support for Nikki. Her set mixed jazz, rock and pop. She appears to be currently at her strongest singing jazz though, as her renditions of Don Henley’s ‘Heart of the Matter’ and the Beatles’ ‘Two of Us’ still have further to develop to be fully convincing.
The hype is true. When Nikki sings her voice really does belie her young years. She deservedly finished the evening to a standing ovation. It feels safe to predict that her innate musicality will continue to grow as undoubtedly her audience will too, bringing more, much needed, listeners to jazz.
Nikki Yanofsky’s new album, Nikki, is due for release in the UK 10th January 2011 on the Decca label.