Review: Gill Manly

Review: Gill Manly
(Jazz Café POSK, Saturday 20th November. Review by Fran Hardcastle)

This was my first visit to POSK and it most certainly won’t be my last. From the second I walked through the door, I was made to feel very welcome. Entering the club downstairs, I walked into a lovely relaxed atmosphere, created by its warm, young and mainly Polish audience. I suspect this place will quickly become my favourite weekend hang out. Sebastian gave it a full review here.

A sparkling opener to the first set came from her trio of the jazz singers’ pianist of choice Barry Green, bassist Geoff Gascoyne and former Seal drummer Michele Drees.

Back in January, Manly performed a very well received tribute to Nina Simone at Ronnie’s, so her first song, Simone’s Exactly Like You was a welcome start. Manly has a huge, soulful instrument that impresses in powerful bluesy numbers but her defining skill is her ability to equally offer arrestingly sensitive and gentle tones. Her choice of repertoire was a fantastic showcase for the vast range of her voice.

The uniquely delivered, Try a Little Tenderness , was a perfect vehicle for the rich bluesy sound she can produce. As a consummate musician, Manly can play around with a melody enough to make it her own, whilst avoiding the occasional jazz singer mistake of losing it entirely.

A highlight of the first set was the beautiful Italian bossa, Bruno Martino’s Estaté, which started with a lusciously delicate delivery from Manly, before evolving into a rather dirty little groove and foxy mama scat. Barry Green’s solo in This Masquerade continued the funky theme. Former Seal drummer, Michele Drees impressed with her tasty solo in You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To, and her duo with Gill to end the chart was utterly delicious.

The second set featured a guest spot from singer Shireen Francis. With Go Away Little Boy, charmingly conveyed by Francis through excellent, playful improvisation.

Manly showed off her swing credentials with standard, It Don’t Mean a Thing, featuring a perky bass solo from Gascoyne. The most touching moment of the evening came when she sang the James Taylor song, Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight, something she explained as an apt choice on the eve of her cardiac surgery. Whatever the reason behind it, her haunting emotional delivery sent tingles down my spine. The rest of the audience also savoured the moment.

Gill Manly will be appearing at the Pheasantry on 17 December. A highly recommended gig.

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