|Carmen Lundy (with Patrice Rushen (left)
Photo credit: Roger Thomas
Georgia Mancio’s Revoice Festival which ended last night has felt like a real coming of age. This well-programmed vocal jazz series, now in its fifth year, has that air of being solidly established. The work-load has probably gone up, but one can also sense that the hard graft in the earlier years is now bearing fruit. The festival has branched away from its home at Pizza Express Jazz Club in Dean Street, out into other venues, even making its mark beyond the M25, in Dorking and Bury St Edmunds. It has been the catalyst for a good discussion to get going about the state of vocal jazz HERE. And perhaps the best tribute it could have is that an artist whose London audience was initially built by her appearance at Revoice, Becca Stevens, is now back in her own right later in the week.
Another thing to be valued is that Georgia Mancio has created a good listening audience at these gigs. The sets she does at the opening of each concert definitely help to set the tone, to prepare the ground for the headliners. She has also progressed in assuredness, confidence and range as a singer. It’s all positive: the broader responsibilities of running an increasingly complex festival venture seem to reflect back into the scale and aura as a performer, and maybe vice versa too. The night I went she was in duo with Dave Newton. Their deliciously slow-and-even-slower I’ve Grown Accustomed to His Face was a highlight.
There was a forceful reminder of how bad audiences can be – or once were- when one audience member took the microphone at the end of the Carmen Lundy gig that I went to, and told the story that the proprietor of the Jazz Cafe -presumably Jon Dabner – was so incensed by the noise punters made during Carmen Lundy’s performance there, that he had the bright yellow sign (above) made. So, is Carmen Lundy genuinely responsible for the uncompromising acronym that has looked over a quarter of a century of cohorts of Camden youth traversing their growing-up rites? I’m not sure. We may have a genuine piece of London’s live music history here, or a new urban myth.
Carmen Lundy’s memories of the places she has played at here certainly are a chronicle of the exploits of imaginative promoters in London. She remembered a first appearance at Peter Ind’s Bass Clef. She remembered the Jazz Cafe. Her show, showcasing the material of her fourteenth album Soul to Soul brought out a loyal crowd to Pizza Express Jazz Club.
For me the highlight was Grace, a number co-written with South African vocalist Simphiwe Dana. The South African vibe opened up a whole new vista, a different way of living deep in a friendly groove. A singer normally happiest when she tests out the extremes of her impressive vocal and dynamic range was fully contented starting off her scatting on a monotone. Her band, fresshly flown in from Los Angeles were impressive, pianist Patrice Rushen and drummer Jamison Ross, both of whom made beautifully subtle backing vocal contributions, and the impeccable-every-time top bassist Darryl Hall.