Live review

Georgia Mancio Quartet: re-opening gig at Hugh & Marion’s / Eltham Jazz Club

Georgia Mancio Quartet

(Hugh and Marion’s/Eltham Jazz Club. 12 January 2023. Live review by Rob Mallows)

Georgia Mancio Quartet. Photo copyright Carl Hyde.

Until last Thursday, Eltham I knew only as a junction on the A2, the location of the Palace, and the home of chanteuse Kate Bush. But there is another reason to go there: live, accessible jazz.

Award-winning singer Georgia Mancio and Dave Ohm have put up the ‘Under New Management’ signs at Eltham Warren Golf Club, home of the long-established Eltham Jazz Club.

Until recently, this was run by the late Hugh and Marion Ockendon who, by all accounts, made it something of a South East London institution, and you could tell a lot of the regulars turned up to welcome the new impresarios.

There was even a raffle on offer to tempt punters for whom quality live music simply wasn’t enough, with wine, chocolates and CDs to be won.

The good-natured crowd enjoyed music from the Georgia Mancio Quartet comprising Mancio on vocals, Ohm on drums, Gareth Lockrane earning his corn doubling on keys as well as woodwind, and Andrew Cleyndert on double bass. A quartet as smooth and well-tuned as a Jaguar V-12 engine, and as reliable.

Gareth Lockrane. Photo copyright Carl Hyde

Playing two sets (though this reviewer was only able to stay for the first), Mancio and her band covered a number of musical bases, in what I found was a surprisingly thoughtful and enjoyable mix of tones, rhythms and moods.

A standard like Secret Love was masterfully handled by Mancio – in a bright yellow dress, shining in the golf club spotlights like a groovy daffodil – and eased the crowd (which I counted at around 57) into the evening. They dutifully tapped their feet and clapped every solo.

To Walk With You – one of the songs Mancio co-wrote with Alan Broadbent during lockdown (how many great tunes will emerge from this dark period, I wonder?) was charming, and it was enough just to close one’s eyes and luxuriate in a voice that’s as sweet and velvety as one of those soft-centred caramels on which I’m sure we all over-indulged over Christmas and New Year. The lyrics and ensemble playing offered a sense of renewal and hope: a poignant, yet positive number.

Fragile – the Sting song – was just voice and double bass, with Cleyndert introducing the track with some gossamer-thin harmonics. The two conjured up a really strong tune which benefitted from the limited tonal palette.

Brazilian number Doralice was charming but, as Mancio pointed out, the Portuguese lyrics told a different story about the love pairing of which the said Doralice was one half. And the proverbial hat should be raised to her for not just remembering and singing the lyrics in a foreign language, but doing so with such gusto and passion.

The first set finished with a cheeky rendition of Just in Time, giving drummer Ohm the chance to go up and down through the gears with its frequent rhythm changes, followed by some really coarse and fibrous flute accompaniment from Lockrane. It’s the sort of tune where the band could go to town.

The highlight of the night, however, was the appearance of student Zach Sholapurkar – just 18 and studying at a local college (he’s also a pupil of Lockrane’s), who was invited to sit in on Willow Weep for Me. Undaunted, he blew his alto saxophone uproariously during his solos but was also respectful as he accompanied Mancio’s singing. He went for it, in other words, and good on the lad. In return, he got hearty applause and pats on the back. I hope somebody bought him a drink.

Andy Cleyndert. Photo copyright Carl Hyde

Jazz in London can feel like a poor relation of the music industry, particularly now, with inflation and high prices, and the legacy of lockdown, making it harder for smaller venues to be opened and stay open.

So gatherings like Eltham Jazz Club are important as they provide the nourishing, creative soil in which musicians can express themselves, young upstarts like Zach can get a feel of playing live, and local punters can enjoy live music without the hassle of going ‘into town’.

In every borough there will be similar such gatherings every month, and each will rely on both regulars and walk-ins coming along to keep going. So next time you want to listen to live jazz but don’t want to go into the centre of London, remember: look local. There may well be something hidden away that’s worth checking out.

And reader… I didn’t win the raffle!

Georgia Mancio. Photo copyright Carl Hyde

LINKS: News piece/ background from December 2022

Eltham Jazz Club homepage with booking links

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