(Pizza Express Jazz Club. 14th September 2014. Review by Brian Blain)
The launch of vocalist Gill Cook’s latest CD, Morning With You on the Mainstem label, one of the last of the indies that cares about quality mainstream jazz, on Sunday last at Dean Street’s Pizza Express, attracted a good crowd, despite the appeal of the continuing Summer weather and the Tour of Britain finale, over in nearby Whitehall.
It’s a while since I heard anyone with a repertoire so eclectic, neither in the classic Porter/Gershwin American Songbook bag, nor edging toward the ‘significant’ new. Songs like Carole King’s Stand Behind Me, Jimmy Webb’s always beguiling Up Up And Away, and Michel Legrand’s I Will Wait For You showed a sure grasp of of post rock classics, even if they did not give the band a lot to et their teeth into – always a problem with this wish not to seem a fossilised part of a pre-war era. But on If I Were a Bell, always a favourite with singers with jazz in their soul, the splendid Nick Tomalin (piano), Dominic Howles (bass) and Matt Fishwick (drums) rhythm section were able to kick in, and Ms Cook was really flying. Which leads to the magnificent trumpeter Steve Waterman’s towering presence throughout, a wonderful player. On every song , soft rock or jazz he produced a series of textbook, lyrical, flowing improvisations that spelled out the presence of a true jazz master.
Oddly, it was on Golden Earrings, not an obvious choice as a jazz vehicle, that singer and band really did the business, with the hardest up-tempo swing of the afternoon, totally obliterating my own Family Favourites memories of a song laden with schmaltz, and in complete contrast to Gill’s own song, Morning With You, which flirted on the edge of a Celtic traditional atmosphere. Still, just to remind us of her deep jazz roots the afternoon closed with a rousing Man I Love – horrible words, great tune – with the whole team really cooking, as we used to say, and Ms. Cook, who had fronted the whole multi-faceted package with humour and style, thoroughly deserving the warm vociferous reception that the show received.