Live reviews

Zoe Francis’s ‘Blue Town’ Project at Pizza Express Dean Street

Zoe Francis’s ‘Blue Town’ Project (Pizza Express Dean Street. 10 November 2019. Review by Brian Blain) With positive memories of Zoe Francis‘s Blue Town CD from the summer, I wondered how its predominantly ‘bittersweet’ mood would work in a live performance at Dean Street’s Pizza Express last Sunday. The short answer is ‘just beautifully’, with the balance between Jim Mullen‘s guitar, Ross Stanley‘s C3 Hammond and Ms Francis’s ever stronger and more relaxed voice absolutely perfect, assisted in no small way by the absence of drums.

Zoe Francis’s Blue Town with Jim Mullen and Ross Stanley (Publicity Photo)

For all that, Zoe’s Blue Town repertoire features exquisite performances of romantic songs like Too Late Now, All My Tomorrows, and Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most, which projected her warm, relaxed sound to perfection, the mood of the show was far from ‘down’, with her humorous and informative intros to the material at hand playing no small part in generating an enthusiastic response from the audience. There was a strong upbeat side as well and her samba treatment of Ralph Burns’ 1937 hit for Woody Herman, Early Autumn, which could easily become a dirge at its original tempo, allowed Jim Mullen’s strong attack and unique sound to come barrelling in on the second tune of the show to create that special ingredient of excitement that all jazz needs to lift its listeners. Ross Stanley’s C3 Hammond is another weapon of vital importance with his background harmony, subtle vamps and coloration. There was so much ‘up’ about this show and for me the subtle use of that Bo Diddley hambone beat  on  Cole Porter’s Dream Dancing was a masterstroke. True, Blue Town has something to say about about loneliness and exclusion, a big part of life for hundreds of thousands of people all over the world, and the classics of romance justify the old bittersweet tag still, but the inclusion of an exhilarating Who Will Buy? and the charm of Enrico Morricone’s waltz like Song For Elena, typical of the this terrific trio’s variety of mood and tempo, made for an outstanding music event.

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