18 July 2012

Ahoy! Bands

Both Davidia and String Effect were supported by a nice little trio on keys, bass and drums: Gordon (aka Gordo) Porth and the Pacific Showband. They impressed me mightily with their support. This was concentrated reading, staged stops and starts, harmony lines against voice, surprisingly effective keyboard parts and I only noticed one toyish synth tone. The band performed other nights as a ballroom dance band. I also caught Gordon playing a few other gigs. One was a staged musical murder mystery trivia quiz where he played snippets of songs for the audience to guess at. The other was a popular but only moderately well-attended classical piano concert entitled From Bach to Billy Joel. Gordon is a perfectly competent classical pianist and played a range of short tunes from JS Bach, Mozart, Schumann, Chopin, Grieg, Debussy, Gershwin, Morricone and a rag to finish off from Billy Joel. It was a touch of class although interrupted by cocktail shaking and phones ringing and even chatter, but it was a nice change. I met bassist David and drummer Adam later in a bar and commended them on their reading. Nothing difficult: Adam said it was much easier than the Schoenberg and Mahler he normally plays (!). David’s bass was wonderfully precise and I liked that he knew all the right riffs and fills for the pop tunes they supported: no faking here. The Pacific Showband comprised Gordon Porth (keyboards) with David Fiore (bass) and Adam Mamula (drums).

We all liked the piano man, Ged (pronounced with a soft G as in Jed) Scott. He was another musical Englishman (lots of English entertainers on this cruise). This was standard piano bar performance with a decent voice, a rack of tunes and a facility with the chord charts. The piano bar repertoire touches on jazz but doesn’t always match the fake books. I was surprised that he didn’t know of a favourite of the jazz repertoire, Alone together, but he played numerous other standards, latins, soft country, modern songs and the like, and managed plenty of other requests. I was relieved when he limited his take on American pie to the first verse repeated (as he said, almost no-one knows any more, anyway), and I was truly impressed by his obvious knowledge of the Italian language when he sang several Neapolitan songs. I liked his slightly detached English presence and his nicely stretched high notes. And his new wife, Nectar, sat in for a capable rendition of Whitney Houston one evening. We spent most nights with a cocktail and Ged before dinner.

I counted at least three grand pianos and noted that at least Ged’s was a Yamaha. Garnette performed solo piano in the atrium each evening on another. She’s a performer with a huge repertoire (2,000+) that she could reel off with ease. I was also impressed when we had a chat with her while she was performing. That’s a professional muso for you. But I was still surprised to hear Wayne Shorter’s Footprints, but then I noticed one of the off-duty bassists had requested it and I saw the Real Books 6th edition vols 1&2 ready to do duty. She told me she also sings piano-(wo-)man sets and she did a set with drummer Adam late in the cruise where they both sang and harmonised.

The other performers were more in rock tradition: a duo, a pop-rock quartet and a DJ but I only touched on this scene. The Fidelity Brothers were a duo playing the soft-rock covers like Margaritaville (appropriate given the propensity for cocktails on ships) and Heart of gold. Southern Comfort was a quartet of vocals, guitar, bass and drums playing a range of popular covers. They had a decent vocalist with a surprising range of vocal tones and a decent guitarist. They were both nice bands despite the requisite repertoire of popular often-classic rock. There was a DJ called DJ Moo but I didn’t catch him spinning disks in the Attic.

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