Zenith Theatre, August 24
I’ve heard the Modern Jazz Quartet and the Art Ensemble of Chicago do it, and when Dan Barnett and his band did for one song here I wondered why more don’t try it. They turned off all sources of amplification and gifted us a completely acoustic version of Mood Indigo. Yes, Barnett’s voice had to work harder, but the abundant pay-off was the joy of the true timbre of his trombone, Peter Locke’s piano, Anthony Howe’s drums and Phil Stack’s sumptuous bass. Suddenly we were all listening for the music rather than being pushed back by it. I’d have happily listened to the whole show this way.
Barnett and French singer Tricia Evy have created this tribute to Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, centred on that repertoire, but singing in their own way.
Evy is the real thing: she is not trying to be a jazz singer, she just is. And because it comes naturally she seems refreshingly ingenuous. Her voice is mellifluous and malleable, she improvises without the awkwardness that besets so many singers when they scat, and she has her own internalised buoyant swing (rather than being dependent on the band). The Man I Love was a highlight, delivered as a bossa nova. A couple of the ballads were less convincing, with I Loves You Porgy missing the emotional intensity of which it is capable.
She and Barnett make a good team whether duetting vocally, or with her scatting and him playing trombone. Perhaps the between-song-chat aspects of the show could be tightened up – hopefully without losing the charm.
Among the instrumental work a boisterous duet between the drums and Barnett blowing into big sea shells led into a slippery One Note Samba, and Stack almost stole the show with a his solo on I’m A Fool To Want You. Besides his sound and melodic ideas Stack’s sense of phrasing had that miraculous effect of making space a unit of propulsion.