10 June 2011
The Sarah McKenzie Trio came up from Melbourne to open for Chris Botti. Opening is a hard spot, but she got a nice Steinway and a decent amount of space and she did a great job. Earthy blues, crisp vocals, sparse piano and a lively, chatty interaction with the audience is evidence of considerable maturity despite a young age. She had a Monday residency in Melbourne when she appeared at the Gods a year or so ago. Her comfort in presentation and calm, sparse playing tells me that she still does. She played a few popular standards – I remember Cry me a river and The way you look tonight – and at least one decent original, strangely sharing a title with a famed standard – Love me or leave me. This one surprised me with its maturity given she’d written it at age 16. She was supported by Leigh Barker, Canberra bassist made good in Melbourne, and drummer Andy Swan. Leigh’s a lovely player who solos easily and has a great line in slap and early jazz bass styles. This was a nicely comfortable opening set from someone who looks, sings and plays the part for obvious comparison with the recent wave of popular female jazz singers, although with a touch more blues grunt. My guess is that Sarah has the goods for a very decent career.