(606 Club Livestream. 18 November 2020. EFG London Jazz Festival. Review by AJ Dehany)
“I started my career playing empty jazz clubs and it’s come full circle!”
It’s a killer line from one of the music’s great entertainers. Liane Carroll is a firm favourite in this manor and we always wonder why she isn’t a household name. Her career has been one of performing at the highest level, but without the po-facedness that sometimes comes with that.
The 606 Club’s newly relaunched streaming service was a nice setting for a live performance that reached out of a room. The lighting and visual multiple camera setup is unobtrusive, not television or filmic but this makes it feel more like a gig, which of course it was. The stream was only available at showtime, though their entire festival series will be live-streamed in order from next Monday 23 November. Liane Carroll said ‘it’s the best jazz club in the world. It’s a privilege to play here when the world has gone mad.”
Liane Carroll has been performing solo “giglets” from home, which have been a scream. At the 606 she was performing with her redoubtable longstanding personal and musical companions Roger Carey on electric bass and Russell Field on drums. When Liane is waving hands and singing while the rhythm section grooves, it’s always remarkable; she of all pianists is her own rhythm section, so it’s great to have the rhythm section as a bonus. This trio are one of those where it just feels like synergy and genius rather than a performance. Like you’re sitting in. It’s a gift to give that impression, in fact it’s a lot of work.
A boogie woogie workout recalls the disarming postmodernist medley-making cleverness of Django Bates but without such a sense of Art With A Capital A. Yet it’s the same sense of convening with a creative, able and quirky mind who can entertain. She segues St Louis Blues into Stevie Wonder’s St Louis Woman with great effect. The sense of flying by the seat of the pants is well-honed. As with the stagecraft of the comedian/storyteller Daniel Kitson, you’re not sure where the act ends and the personality begins. It’s both: it’s personality crafted into an art.
She directs Russell to a drum solo, or rather a drum break really, with some enjoyably intense Pastorian bass playing from Carey. They’re one of those groups so tight they can drop the swung groove and drop into hard bop for a few bars then back. It’s quite a gloriously intense trio, which doesn’t quite become self-indulgent somehow, just mutually enjoyable all round, as long as you can handle electric bass.
There are great selections from the jazz-friendly pop songwriters. Joni Mitchell is the Queen, but the under-regarded Laura Nyro is next. She plays the Tom Waits song Take It With Me. Tom Waits songs have a weird relationship with jazz. Singable by anyone but inimitable, classic and simple but endlessly thought-provoking and emotive, with the hardest most ragged of edges. That potent mixture of hardness of sentimentality characterises the best British singers. It’s unflinching not just cos it will talk about, to invoke a different Tom Waits song, the bandages coming off but because it embraces the hope about that.
I’ve been hearing Morecambe and Wise’s signature tune Bring Me Sunshine a lot on the Jive Aces daily lockdown stream, but theirs is quite different, a slow slow swung jazz version that reveals what an actually lovely song it is. Sometimes when you slow a song down like that it reveals such levels. It’s the Bill Withers version of this song that you didn’t realise you always needed.
Liane goes solo with a breathtaking reading of Carole King’s (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman. It’s a touchstone to her and people like Barb Jungr, artists who are very much themselves. They don’t pretend, and are generous with their craft. Carroll’s variations and rubato to the melody are expressive rather than just looking like a singer trying to make it interesting. Some singers just have that way of making the material, no matter how familiar or stylised, into their own.
AJ Dehany writes independently about music, art and stuff. ajdehany.co.uk