(Ronnie Scott’s, 12th May 2012. Review by Chris Parker)
‘Formed in the bar here at the club’ is how the vocal quartet Blinq were announced, and there is, perhaps as a consequence of the spontaneous nature of this event, a breezy informality about their approach to performance. Occasionally this has unfortunate results – Brendan Reilly had to restart one number after a confused introduction – but generally, it infuses their act with a cheeriness and cheeky vitality often encountered in the solo performances of two of their number, Ian Shaw and Liane Carroll, but otherwise absent from much contemporary jazz.
Natalie Williams is the fourth member of the group, and she and pianist/arranger Gwilym Simcock were the tight strings that tethered the Blinq balloon, whether they were harmonising and scatting their way through the (often considerable) intricacies of standards such as ‘Time After Time’, ‘Never Will I Marry’ and ‘Falling in Love with Love’ or romping through less overtly structured pieces such as the opening wordless vocal with its ‘oo-ya’ refrain or the closer of their second set, a blues sparked by Billy Taylor’s classic ‘I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free’.
In addition to Simcock’s carefully layered, adventurous arrangements, tellingly embellished by his pungent piano contributions, Blinq also featured songs written by one of their number -– Shaw’s poignant ‘Let’s Stay Forty-two’ (a touching duet with Carroll) and Reilly’s heart-on-sleeve ‘Little Black Raincloud’ – and (the core of their second set) four ballads with Simcock piano segues featuring each member in turn, the highlight Carroll’s searingly emotional visit to one of Noël Coward’s most personal songs, ‘Mad About the Boy’, sans its banned ‘Myrna Loy’ verse, but with all its hopeless, self-deprecating longing very much intact.
The secret to Blinq’s success, though, is rooted not so much in their individual prowess, considerable though this is, as in their infectious enjoyment of each other’s skills; Williams’s rapt attention to the men’s sparky duo version of a couple of songs from The Jungle Book was only the most obvious example of the close personal (and professional) rapport the quartet demonstrate throughout their irresistibly enjoyable performances, and by the time they had finished their encore (Harry Edison’s ‘Centrepiece’, with its Annie Ross lyrics), they had the club crowd baying for (even) more.