CD Review: Brigitte Beraha & John Turville with Bobby Wellins – Red Skies

Brigitte Beraha & John Turville with Bobby Wellins – Red Skies
(e17 Jazz Records/Splashpoint Digital. CD Review by Alison Bentley)

  Singer Brigitte Beraha and pianist John Turville are known for writing their own imaginative music. On this CD, they bring their jazz and classical influences to others’ songs, both well-known and rare, and Bobby Wellins plays lusciously on the first and last tracks. Turville and Beraha are based in London; Beraha was born in Italy and grew up in French-speaking Monaco, and there’s a European feel to the album, beautifully recorded in the Italian Artesuono studios.

The album opens dreamily with Dindi (LISTEN HERE), one of several bossa novas. There’s a fine musical rapport. Beraha drifts across the beat, the sound of the breath becoming a part of the voice. As she moves the phrases around, Turville follows her, while keeping the pulse strong and anchoring the timing. Desafinado is upbeat, and in Turville’s solo the notes tumble over each other in Monkish glee. Beraha creates a kind of playful rhythmic tension against the piano, improvising with a light percussive touch. Moon and Sand summons the melancholy of Chet Baker’s version. Turville’s solo is romantic and sweeping, with strong bossa grooves, making the piano sing, like John Taylor. Beraha sounds strong but never strident, changing volume suddenly on a note for emphasis, with emotive effect.

A high point  is Chico Buarque’s Beatriz. Milton Nascimento was once regarded as the only singer with the vocal range to negotiate its wide intervals. Beraha sings them beautifully in Portuguese, exploring the lower part of her range before ascending the rungs of the tune, like the trapeze artist portrayed. There’s an unmistakable frisson as Turville echoes the melody between the vocal lines.   They Can’t Take That Away From Me  and This Heart of Mine are swung and sung with fun. Turville’s walking bass lines and Tristano-like counterpointed motifs show how versatile this award-winning pianist is. Beraha’s exuberant boppy scat phrases have some of the contours and vocal tone of Anita Wardell’s improvising. Autumn Leaves was originally composed for Jacques Prévert’s French poem Les Feuilles Mortes, which Brigitte sings here: as the lovers part silently (‘sans faire de bruit’) her voice fades with pathos. As the song starts to swing, you’re reminded by her clear, delicate tones of Tina May’s ‘Jazz Piquant’- and Turville can sound like Nikki Iles.

It Might as Well Be Spring, played as a ballad, starts with Norma Winstone-like wordless vocal plummeting. The slight break as the voice slides up creates a folk-like quality, a childlike innocence. As she sings low, the piano takes the upper register in expressive contrast. Brigitte Beraha can sing warmly and at other times with a cool Nordic poise, evoking Sidsel Endresson’s work with Django Bates. She turns Paul Simon’s Night Game from a song about baseball into something Northern and mystical; phrases like ‘colder than the moon’ , ‘upon the winter frost’ are heightened, the breath blurring the outline of the voice like snow on a branch. My One and Only Love is a heartfelt  ballad, the piano arpeggios sensitively billowing between the vocal lines. In Beraha’s Elephant on Wheels (the only original) she sings long subtle tones behind the piano solo, combining Evans-style Romanticism with darker minor modes.

The slow A Time For Love again shows Bill Evans’ influence, but Turville uses sparser broken chords to outline the harmony. Bobby Wellins solos here and on Dindi: his solos are gorgeously breathy with a core of toughness. As the sax folds in with the high ethereal voice and flowing piano, it’s very beautiful. Their sincerity and humour combine with superb musicianship to create a very special atmosphere. To quote Ruskin, describing it feels like like ‘counting clouds’.

Brigitte Beraha, John Turville and Bobby Wellins:
CD Launch: 17th Feb. Pizza Express, Dean St., London.

Touring: 1st Feb. Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon
             27th Feb. Stratford Jazz Club, 1, Shakespeare St., Stratford on Avon

Categories: miscellaneous

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