I should really start this review by saying I’m no jazz expert. I’ve got a fair few jazz albums in my collection but only really a few of them, Kind of Blue, Vince Guarldi’s A Boy Named Charlie Brown and Duke Ellingtons Anatomy of a Murder Soundtrack, really get heavy rotation. However, I like to broaden my musical horizons and was really intrigued to see a set of songs originally performed by Ella Fitzgerald and virtuoso guitarist Joe Pass recreated in an intimate setting.
Tonight I was treating the old dear, so my mother and I arrived 40 minutes early and I was little surprised to see a queue had already formed outside and there was a wee scramble to get a good seat. “Told you”, my mum whispered looking around at the audience “us older people like to be prompt.” Mum knows best! If it had been left up to me, we would have ended up standing at the back.
As things kick off it soon becomes apparent that guitarist Martin Taylor has a great deal of skill as a musician and arranger, not to mention one of the most beautiful silky smooth guitar tones you have ever heard. On second song The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else he really brings the swing and his impressive solo elicits a well deserved round of applause. When Taylor mentions that he has worked with Joe Pass and was playing with legendary violinist Stefan Grapelli as early as 1979 no-one is in the least bit surprised. He is that good.
By the time I’ve Got the World On A String strikes up, the duo have the audience in the palm of their hands with a lovely vocal from Alison and some truly arduous looking chord shapes from Martin. A brief solo instrumental interlude follows with just Mr. Taylor on guitar and a version of I’m Old Fashioned that is both technically amazing and extremely entertaining.
When Alison returns she is on form and her heart-wrenching vocal performance on Willow Weep for Me is one of the high points of the evening for me. As with the Earl Okin show I reviewed recently, I felt I was really getting a first class musical education from the chat between songs. For example, Martin tells of Johnny Mercers problem coming up with a lyric for a Jimmy Van Heusan melody. Eventually he solved it on a long train journey from New York Chicago where he wrote I Think About You about what he saw going by the window. “Winding Stream. Moon shining down on some little town and with each beam, the same old dream”
After a very brief interval the second half gets things jumping with crowd pleasers I Got Rhythm and Cheek to Cheek. The song I really love though is the bluesy I’m Just A Lucky So-and-So with some great blues fills from Martin and the spine-tingling vocals by Alison do the cracking slightly wry lyrics justice. “If you should ask me the amount in my bank account, I’d have to confess that I’m slipping”. I’ve just checked my bank balance and it seems that people in 2017 are still having the same problems as people in 1945 when this song was written. Only difference is that we can find out we’re poor from the comfort of our own smart phones! Next song My Old Flame was originally written for Mae West follows and features another impressive vocal performance and also some lovely harmonics from Mr. Taylor.
The night had really flown by and before I know it Alison and Martin are performing an encore of Gershwins Lady be Good and we are heading back down The Loft stairs to the street, my mother remarking on how impressed she is that club goers can navigate them after a nights drinking when she’s struggling after just a couple of glasses of prosecco.