Zoe Francis Group
(606 Club. 13th February 2014. Review by Brian Blain)
As heavy a team as you will catch anywhere in London – Gareth Williams, Mick Hutton, Enzo Zirilli, Stan Sulzmann and Jim Mullen – accompanying relative newcomer Zoe Francis, singing at the 606 last Thursday, suggests that something a bit special is going on when this artist from the South West, via workshops and small clubs in New York takes the stage.
From her ever so slightly tentative opener Gigi Gryce’s Social Call, she displayed a deep knowledge of not-so -frequently sung material from the classic song book, like Yip Harburg’s Down with Love, when her subtle grasp of time and slight rhythmic displacement of the lyric produced beaming smiles from Jim Mullen, which hardly left his face all evening.
Speak Low (Weill), I Was Doin’ Alright (Gershwins), and a a driving version of one of Mark Murphy’s favourites, Out of This World , (Mercer/Arlen), with a killer Milestones-type rhythm pattern, that showed that those slight opening number nerves had, by now, been well and truly blown away, and the not-too-frequently heard Arlen/Truman Capote song A Sleepin’ Bee ,with virtually every tune bringing out strong solos from everyone in the band.
With so many good singers around it would be foolish to talk of ‘future star’-if only life was that simple- but there is a quality in Zoe Francis’s work that suggests something of the classic singers of the past – even Billie Holiday – and yet there is no obvious attempt to be anyone but herself,with an appealing freshness as well as technical command that make her shows well worth seeking out.