Photo credit: Louis Burrows
(Crazy Coqs. 24 August 2017. Review by Sebastian Scotney)
The retro-swing thing really has turned into an almighty wave. It’s ethos is – in that immortal lyric of Dorothy Fields – to “put a tingle in your fingers and a tingle in your feet,”and the crest of it is being ridden by charismatic, French-born chanteuses-turned-New-York-sensations such as Elizabeth Bougerol of the Hot Sardines, and Cyrille Aimee, who both have the support of larger labels, and are becoming widely known.
Lucy Dixon, who brought her Lulu’s Back in Town set to the right London venue for it – Crazy Coqs – is also in this stylistic domain, and certainly has that same sense of being propelled, enlivened, captivated by a strong swing beat. Her artistry in this area is at a similar level to her better known peers, and her Crazy Coqs show also drew attention to what makes her distinctive.
The rhythmic drive is omni-present: it compels her to punch out rhythms with her tap shoes (she was once in the chorus line at the Lido de Paris, and has also toured the world with Stomp), and also with brushes on a side drum, and even at one point with those same brushes on her silk dinner jacket. She beats it out on tambourines and teapots too. Everything becomes a percussion istrument. That said, she has yet to take on the defiant washboard-worn-as-breastplate sported by Bougerol…
Dixon was working with the classic manouche formation of lead guitar – Julien Cattiaux, rhythm guitar – David Gastine, and bass – Sebastien Gastine. The latter two also appear on her record. Musically things were very secure, especially when she slimmed down the band. Her version of Don’t Mean a Thing with just bass showed how well she can nail the harmonic rhythm of a tune when necessary, and her solo When I Get Low I Get High was for me the highlight of the show, and for similar reasons.
In her versions, all the songs she has chosen do indeed all come across as very strong. There was one real curiosity, a franglais song Darling je vous aime beaucoup, in which her deliberate fluttering jejuneness a la Jane Birkin sounded so authentic, I was at one point under the delusion that it was a Dixon original. It wasn’t. Words and music are from 1935 by Anna Sosenko, and Nat King Cole once recorded it, making a completely different song of it, in a satin-ish, saccharine-ish ‘with-strings’ version. (VIDEO).
In English and at Crazy Coqs, Dixon was being rather self-deprecating and diffident about her mission: “We’re doing a bunch of old songs, ” she said, and “I’m not a great talker…” I was curious that in a recent interview in French she was far more effusive about her intent. She said: “Je ne me limite pas à interpréter des chansons. J’essaie de leur insuffler une autre vie.” (I don’t confine myself to interpreting songs; I try to breathe different life into them.) If I have one criticism it is that Crazy Coqs room works best for performers who really work the audience, and Dixon could have directed more energy towards that.
This was an enjoyable show. Interest never flagged, and she was treated to a well-deserved rousing ovation at the end.
|L-R: David Gastine, Sebastien Gastine, Lucy Dixon, Julien Cattiaux
Photo credit: Louis Burrows