20 January 2013

No tightrope needed

Thanks to David Beech for the well lit pic

Yes, Virginia, Hippo was completely different. This was becoming a big night as I left Smith’s for Hippo and Sophia Christopher. Sophia was a student at the Jazz School and I didn’t know she’d gone off to the famed Berkelee Music School in Boston for further study where she’s been studying jazz vocals along with film score and song writing. I came into a very busy all-ages scene at Hippo. Noisier and friendlier than usual. Sophia had friends and family in, and I love a gig like this. Art only has purpose so far. As Wayne Shorter said, "If all you have is music, then you don't have music". And after the purity and idealised sound artistry of the experimental, we got fun and ecstasy and passion of sophisticated pop/funk. I think Sophia was singing her own material, and this was not particularly jazz-like. It was lively and danceable and make-out-worthy; at home in Hippo but also in a string of other locations. I was enjoying this. Sophia was far more outspoken, confident, ebullient than I remembered her. She told the story of young American girls with few singing skills but tons of personality getting into Berkelee and the guidance she’d got on just this. Music as work is more often entertainment than art. If you can combine the two, that’s even better. Sophia was doing this: skilful chops and lively presentation. She slowed for just one tune: a rendition a favourite, What is this thing called love, but slowing is relative. This was still outgoing and fast paced and Sophia was supple over the changes. It’s something I noticed from her, along with her range. She’s moving and bending melody and the resulting feel is fluid and malleable. The band was good, too. Solid and effective feels, Andrew on loose accompaniment, a very nifty guitar solo at the end that spoke of iconoclastic alt rather than jazz.

Yes, Virginia, different and all good. I enjoyed this, despite or maybe because of the volume. The night life is seduction and conviviality and Hippo is a mainstay in Canberra, and Sophia was there with her new-found confidence slamming the place. Outgoing and skilled, so the best of both worlds, but more importantly, plain fun. One little bit of the US streets returns to Canberra. Sophia Christopher led her band at Hippo. The Canberra pickups comprised Andrew Kimber (alto tenor), Matt Dixon (guitar), Ben Foster (piano), Alec Coulson (bass) and Sam McNair (drums).

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