Georgie Fame with the BBC Big Band(Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, Sunday 12 May 2019. Review by Frank Griffith)
The unique and distinctive vocals and piano of Georgie Fame combined with the sterling efforts of the BBC Big Band dazzled the crowd at The Liverpool Philharminic Hall last night The programme was extemely varied but flowed swimmingly throughout. This included several Fame originals, many of which arranged by sadly bygone Brit writers like Harry South, Tubby Hayes and Steve Gray. A few 1960s soul classics like Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag and Yeah, Yeah, which opened the concert, were included as well.
Raised in Leigh, Lancs, Fame (born Clive Powell in 1943) has a long history with the BBC Big Band dating from ther 1960s. He also toured then with the Count Basie Orchestra and performed Neil Hefti’s Little Pony and Frank Foster’s classic Blues Backstage which closed the two and a half-hour concert with a heroic and explosive finish.
Fame’s voice has a somewhat veiled and grainy quality to it. More Mose than Monro, if you like. Not particularly sonically resonant or having a coarse and booming blues shoutiness to it. More crooning, dry and vibrato-less but blues-drenched nonetheless. In addition, he also carried off a few arrangements showing his flawless ability to deliver rapid fire lyrics to iconic solos by jazz greats.
The BBC Big Band rose to the challenge with aplomb conducted ably by Barry Forgie, soon to be be 80 but showing no signs of slowing down. Each set was opened with three instrumentals showcasing the brilliant soloists in the band. Amongst these was baritone saxophonist Jay Craig, on Johnny Mandel’s Black Nightingale from the 1958 film I Want To Live, an early outright jazz film score. Vibraphonist Anthony Kerr also shone on Flying Home and Sweet Georgia Brown as did tenor saxophonist Martin Williams on his feature of Bob Florence’s Autumn. Other outstanding solos came from trumpeters Tom Dennis and BBC BB veteran Martin Shaw, as well as trombonist Rory Ingram. Finally, the gritty yet angular tenor saxophone of Julian Siegal scored impressively on a few, albeit brief, solo look-ins.
The first class rhythm team of Chris Allard on guitar, Robin Aspland on piano, Dave Whitford on bass and Matt “Skilled” Skelton on drums shone throughout. Not only in their role of “driving the bus” but with delightful solo offerings sprinkled throughout as well. Of particular note was Skelton’s drum fills on Pat Williams arrangement of In The Still of the Night.
Fame, in addition to singing and playing wonderfully, was not afraid to share stories and his views on the current state of things. Most notable was thanking the audience for coming along to “share the emotions”. Not something that one can do on their laptop, iphone or other social media contrivances that dominate communication today. Hear, hear to that as the emotions shared were rich, unforgettable and priceless.