Photo credit: © Brian Homer
Gabrielle Ducomble Trio
(The Mansion Bar and Parlour, August 4th 2013. Review by Andrew Cartmel)
Tucked away among the hotels in Earls Court is a new and very promising venue, the Mansion Bar and Parlour. The place has a relaxed, quirky elegance, full of stylish detail: trompe-l’oeil foyer, roses on the tables, discreet pink strips of neon glowing at the edges of the ceiling, retro 1960s fabric on the chairs.
And then there’s the music.This Sunday lunchtime the patrons were being treated to the Belgian chanteuse Gabrielle Ducomble and her able support musicians, Maurizio Minardi on accordion and Luca Boscagin on guitar.
Their set opened with Les Yeux Ouverts, the French version of Dream a Little Dream of Me. Luca Boscagin started the ball rolling with easy strumming guitar and Gabrielle Ducomble floated her vocal above it while Maurizio Minardi added piquant comments from the accordion. The effortless power of Gabrielle’s voice was immediately apparent, floating out the open doors into the sunlit garden squares of South London. This trio is hip, laid back and swinging with Maurizio Minardi wringing emotional commentary from the accordion.
Jobim’s Happy Madness featured Gabrielle’s effortless, skipping vocal while Boscagin plucked and strummed, chords blossoming and popping joyfully from his guitar and Minardi’s accordion offered wry, sighing observations. The singer’s voice was rich and vibrant, perfection on a summer’s day. It’s infectious, finger-popping jazz.
Why Don’t You Do Right took things in a new direction, opening with Luca Boscagin’s bluesy extemporisation on the guitar, then the intoxicating rhythm and Gabrielle Ducomble’s insinuating vocal began, flaring and falling, with Maurizio Minardi slapping his instrument and then creeping in with chords. Every foot in the place is tapping, mine most of all. There then ensued a swinging melodic discussion between accordion and guitar until Gabrielle returned, giving just a hint of the volcanic power in her voice. The trio wrapped up like a train leaving a station, pulling into the night and fading away…
Pink Martini’s Sympathique is another chanson. It’s nice to hear Gabrielle Ducomble rolling her R’s. Not surprisingly the catchy, Gallic number is a showcase for Maurizio Minardi’s accordion.
Melody Gardot’s Baby I’m a Fool featured Gabrielle sliding smoothly down the ski slopes of the lyrics with Minardi and Boscagin providing nuanced, layered accompaniment — it was instructive to hear the synergy of guitar and accordion. Two chordal instruments comping together can be problematical — if not actually a train wreck. But here the mesh and interplay was splendid, offering a universe of blended melodic potential. And this number also really displayed the virtuosity of Gabrielle Ducomble as she sang a nimble tumbling spill of lyrics, delivering the words with utter fluency, squeezing out every musical possibility.
It seemed a sacrilege to eat while this magnificent music was unfurling. But somehow the slow cooked rib of English beef overcame my scruples.
It Might As Well Be Spring, as featured on Gabrielle’s first album, was taken at a jumpy high tempo with her vocal swooping and soaring while the trotting guitar and expansive accordion wrapped around her. Then Gabrielle sat out while the boys launched into a vigorous, complex duet. She started singing again and, after the turbulent energy of the instrumental, it was like a light house appearing in a stormy sea.
On Sweet Georgia Brown Gabrielle Ducomble’s vocals were bright, emphatic and beaming, adding a European inflection to the lyrics, which along with Maurizio Minardi’s accordion rendered it a unique interpretation. Minardi was at his most swinging here, making the squeeze box sing while Luca Boscagin’s bright, ringing guitar danced down cascading scales. Together they played the melody in a memorably intertwined duet before Gabrielle returned with that amazing voice.
Hard to believe that music of this quality is so casually available in SW5 on a sunny Sunday. Along with excellent food — plus a glass of champagne thrown in for free.
I think lunch in Earls Court is in order.