Live reviews

REVIEW: Allison Adams Tucker at Pizza Express, Birmingham

Allison Adams Tucker in Birmingham
Photo credit: © John Watson/

Allison Adams Tucker
(Pizza Express Live, Birmingham, 10 June 2018. Review and photos by John Watson)

The international scene is currently blessed with a huge number of exceptionally talented female singers. There are so many strikingly individual voices among them, ranging from the deep, dark chocolate timbre of Patricia Barber to the almost fly-away high range of the brilliant Youn Sun Nah, and all shades of tonal colours in between.

San Diego-born Allison Adams Tucker’s voice can be placed towards the lighter end of the tonal spectrum, and her delivery is warm and never over-stated, but her emotional range is considerable and her range of repertoire from many international styles – sung in six languages – is quite extraordinary.

Her performance at Pizza Express Live was a journey around a whole world of music, reflecting the work on her critically-acclaimed 2016 album WANDERlust (Origin Records), featuring repertoire from Brazil, Argentina, Italy, France, Spain and Japan as well as her homeland.

She began her show with the latin-beat opening track of that album, When In Rome, ably backed by pianist Al Gurr, bassist Ashley John Long, and drummer Coach York. The pianist proved to be the perfect accompanist for Tucker, and dished up a tremendously dynamic solo in My Favourite Things, piling up the block chords as Long and York stoked the fires under Tucker’s strong vocal line. The modal feel of the arrangement appropriately evoked the Coltrane Quartet version of the song, a world apart from the Julie Andrews original.

Allison Adams Tucker in Birmingham
Photo credit: © John Watson/
Tucker can certainly sing with great power, but her performance also provided plenty of mellow moments, notably in Astor Piazzolla’s Vuelvo al Sur (Returning Back South), which she sang in the original Spanish, and Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Águas de Março (Waters Of March), sung in Portuguese. In Jardin d’Hiver (Garden In Winter), by the French Guiana-born composer Henri Salvador (1917-2008), she began the lyrics in French and concluded them in Portuguese, reflecting Salvador’s huge success in both France and Brazil.

She’s good at pop songs, too, with a funky version of Windmills Of Your Mind and an absorbing interpretation of Human Nature, the latter peformed as a duet with bassist Long.

But what really caught my ear was her first-set closer, a truly virtuoso wordless performance of Pat Metheny’s Better Days Ahead, demonstrating marvellous articulation, great tonal accuracy, and dynamic drive. The arrangement ends on a drum solo without returning to the theme, which seems a little odd, but perhaps it makes more sense on a recording than in a live show.

Allison Adams Tucker can also be heard at the Marine Theatre, Lyme Regis, on 17 June, and at Speakeasy Torquay on 19 June. 

The jazz programme at Pizza Express Live Birmingham continues with Myrna Hague on 25 June and Ian Shaw on 21 July.

Categories: Live reviews

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