L-R: Dave Bitelli, Mick Hutton, Sarah Moule, Paul Robinson
Photo courtesy of Lauderdale House
Sarah Moule and the Simon Wallace Quartet (Lauderdale House, Highgate. 6 June 2019. Review by Lauren Bush)
Vocalist Sarah Moule and pianist Simon Wallace are no strangers to Lauderdale House, and this time they returned with an excellent showcase of Duke Ellington songs and stories. It was an equal collection of classic favourites and uncovered jewels from the extensive library of songs that Ellington wrote or collaborated on. Dave Bitelli helped set the scene beautifully, switching between clarinet, bass clarinet and tenor saxophone. Practically a ‘reed’ for every mood – it was a special touch that really brought the music to life.
The first set started off with Take Love Easy and carried on with the classic It Don’t Mean a Thing. The arrangements left just enough space for each instrument to have a blow but never overdid it, sticking to the traditions of Ellington’s time, a testimony to Wallace’s skill as arranger: everything fit the bill perfectly.
Take the ‘A’ Train and In My Solitude were among other notable moments in the first set as was Jump for Joy in which, Bitelli played a rich and beautifully phrased bass clarinet solo The medley of I Didn’t Know About You and A Lucky So-and-So, where everything fit nicely in the pocket and everyone had a go-around the solos – even had Paul Robinson on the drums accentuate the melody at all the right moments.
The second half brought even more nostalgia with Prelude to a Kiss done as a lovely waltz, followed later by In a Mellow Tone with all the original Jon Hendricks lyrics and vocalese punctuated with the masterful finale Nothin’ But the Blues. Mellow Tone was an especially nice moment for Wallace, Bitelli and Moule as they each took turns playing the parts of the original Lambert Hendricks and Ross version.
Moule had an ease about her when singing and chatting with the audience. The anecdotes that she shared were fun and meaningful and helped tie the collection of songs together. She shared moments of keen musicianship with her bandmates, growled and bent the bluesy notes at all the right moments and always touched the delicate intervals in Ellington’s music with perfection.
There were so many different colours and styles of music within the selection chosen and each instrument had a chance to shine, with swinging bass solos from Mick Hutton and cool hand-drumming features from Robinson. Wallace at the piano led the way and chipped in musically and historically in all the best ways.
Brian Blain’s music series at Lauderdale House has become a North London institution and never disappoints.