15 March 2010

Two for tea

Their names appear pretty frequently around the traps, so I made the trek to the other side of town to hear Rachel Thorne and Lucy Bermingham at Adore Tea. Both of them have strong professional backgrounds, including in Army bands, so you can expect professional competence which is a high accolade in my book. I’d heard Rachel years back and was much impressed and I remember the gig well. I’d missed Lucy performing an Eva Cassidy tribute at Vivaldi’s but I caught her as a singer at Llewellyn Hall. This day she was on piano.

The tunes were the old standards so nothing particularly new there, but the accompaniment was sturdy and eminently reliable, and the vocals were capable and inventive. The first tune on my arrival was Nature boy. How can you not fall for that tune? Then into a string of cycles and melodies that define this era of popular music: I’ve got you under my skin, Our love is here to stay, Autumn leaves. I even enjoyed that 50s-kitsch Danke schön. It’s not a song I love, but I enjoyed this rendition with seductive glissandi leaning in to the notes that started each phrase. I’d already taken note of various jazz vocal conventions that Rachel had performed with admirable ease: playing with time by anticipating and delaying lines of melody, various chromatic movements and some harmonic alterations. All done as understated melodic inventions. Lovely stuff. She sang scat, too, which is of this tradition. Then on through light swingers and latins like Fools rush in and Fly me to the moon and Sway, and more depth with God bless the child. It was admirable singing and I enjoyed it immensely. But I’m being unfair on Lucy, because her role was essential to support Rachel’s front line. Her eyes were obviously following the charts closely but this was well improvised: a solid and reliable accompaniment with no hesitation that I noticed. Left hand bass, relaxed swings, understated solos, frequent changes of feels and grooves and moods all featured. It was a relaxed little gig for a Sunday afternoon audience, but there were real skills and alluring interpretations. Very nice.

Rachel Thorne (vocals) and Lucy Bermingham (piano) played at Adore Tea for its free Sunday afternoon jazz sessions.

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