Charles Rees writes:
Monika S. Jakubowska’s photos here perfectly capture the mood at harpist and vocalist Tara Minton‘s debut as headliner at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club on 18 July 2022. For the occasion, she was joined by a team of London’s finest players (who just so happen to be many of her closest friends), performing to a bustling Monday evening crowd:
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The first set of the evening featured music from Minton’s 2020 album Please Do Not Ignore the Mermaid (reviewed for LJN by Lavender Sutton); commonly referred to as ‘The Mermaid Suite’. The music and song titles are heavily inspired by mermaid mythology and came with an important message about climate change.
Italian-born saxophonist Tommaso Starace was featured heavily on his soprano throughout the suite. His solos brought moments of passion and energy, generating great reactions from the audience and band alike. His special rapport with Minton’s vocals in particular made their growing melodies on “Undine Undying” especially evocative.
On piano was Pete Letanka, whose caring, sensitive touch had an almost symbiotic relationship with the comping on the harp. He adapted well to this unconventional setting, never failing to relinquish harmonic responsibilities when it suited the moment.
Drummer Dave Ingamells was the star of the show at many moments. There is something very unselfish to his style, and his every decision to move between feels during tunes was entirely called for and most gratifying as a listener. He also showed himself to be very adaptable in settings that ranged from a drum/harp duo to moments with full ensemble plus a section of vocalists.
Ed Babar has a running musical association with Minton, the two having recently released Two for the Road (previewed here), a harp/bass duo recording. He handled bass responsibilities here also.
Minton’s own performance was a hit with the audience. The way she told stories through her vocals, somewhat reminiscent of Norma Winstone, particularly seemed to connect with the crowd. And the unique opportunity to see solos and jazz comping on a harp, especially at this level, was also impactful.
In addition to the quintet, three backing vocalists (L-R: Germana Stella la Sorsa, Aitziber Cofre Real and Clare Wheeler) were featured to varying degrees. This enabled harmonies or counter melodies that, while they could be multi-tracked for a recording, would not be available in an average performance, providing an almost studio effect in some moments. Yet it never felt like they were over (or under) used.
Also appearing in the second set as a special guest (later… in the second set and not caught on photo) was British-jazz veteran Stan Sulzmann on saxophone.