Live reviews

Tara Minton and Nick Willsher at the 606 Club

Tara Minton plus Nick Willsher
(606 Club. 23 August 2023. Live review by Sebastian Scotney)

Tara Minton with Lorenzo Morabito (L) and Jonah Evans (R). Photo Sam Brown

It’s just a hunch. No more than the slight inkling of a possibility. But on the evidence of the two new numbers in Tara Minton’s first set at the 606 last night, the Melbourne-born singer/harpist has turned a corner, found a great new strand of creativity.. and what happens next should be something very special.

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It is as if she has done all the hard and serious yards, and now, miraculously, all kinds of elements of her craft have fallen into place. There is a palpable joy in her harp-playing, and her singing, and how she combines them

As harpist she did an intense one year masters course at The Guildhall in 2018/19, in which she single-mindedly went about finding ways to express what she calls “a proper jazz language on the harp,” to complement an assured grasp of all kinds of classical sonorities. To that she has added an instinct and awareness of how to chase – and to find – more outlandish and theatrical sounds on the harp without fear. There was one attack on the high strings last night which sounded like glass shattering right in one’s ear, and another where the soundboard resonated like the vast nave of a cathedral.

As a vocalist she has been going places too. There was a performance of “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again “ from Ronnie’s in BBC 2’s Bacharach tribute which has certainly left its mark. And her tonal and timbral range has also expanded to embrace a panoply of the unexpected. Just a quick aside: while critics have been falling over each other to draw attention to Elaine Mitchener as a  “fearless specialist in experimental music” with an “astonishing palette of vocal sounds”. I would say that Minton’s vocal armoury is now every bit as persuasive, maybe even more so.

What has happened, then? It may just be that all that investigation, searching, studying has now borne fruit, or maybe there is something else. Perhaps the experience of interviewing musicians for “The Jazz Podcast” has made her reflect on her own creativity. Or perhaps it is the spare time Minton had on an extended tour in Mexico that has brought a particular kind of joy to the new work.

That particular time has produced what she calls “a lively samba in 7/4 capturing the joy and inspiration I found in Mexico City”. It is called “El Colibrí” (The Hummingbird). And her reflections on life’s many possibilities has produced “a new ballad about taking responsibility for one’s own happiness” with the title “A More Colourful Life”, where defiance and joy are again close companions.

She had an excellent band too, with Jonny Mansfield on vibes, very recent RAM graduate Nick Willsher on tenor and soprano saxes, Jonah Evans on drums and bassist Lorenzo Morabito.

L-R: Jonny Mansfield, Tara Minton, Lorenzo Morabito, Jonah Evans, Nick Willsher. Photo by Sam Brown

Minton was sharing the bill last night with saxophonist Nick Willsher, whose long-form compositions, performed with the same band. in the second half were exploring themes of the sky and astrological cycles with delicacy, long arcs of melody and concentration, and armfuls of manuscript paper. I heard just the beginning, and noted an astonishingly full and rich sound in the lower reaches of the tenor sax from the Southampton-born saxophonist. I wish I could have stayed until the end.

LINKS: Tara Minton’s page at management Hancock Artists

Categories: Live reviews, Reviews

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