14 October 2017
Princessing the bands
I've already mentioned the Diamond Princess Orchestra. They are the reading professionals that back the shows and the various entertainers who come on board for a day or two. They read; they are trained profs in that mould and they impress me mightily. I like this style. Get in for a few hours of rehearsal then do a complex gig once or twice after dinner and carry it off with panache and clarity. The DPO backed several shows of this style on the ship. One was New Orleans pianist/singer Chris May who got in front of a band to play a hometown New Orleans show, all rollicking rhythms and backbeats and syncopations and second liners. The DPO were reading too hard to be a standard first line band, but the groove and intent was there. The DPO did another gig in the Explorers Lounge backing opera soprano Lena McKenzie. I learnt much from this gig. Again a capable band and a competent singer, but the voice was cutting, unbalanced, uneven. This is obviously capable singer, so why? Because of the mic? Sort of. I heard Lena again in a show a day or so later, in the theatre, served by programmed, digital sound and it was great. So ... the value of good sound production. The difference was truly chalk and cheese. Avis Ellis was in the Theatre for her show. I assume her sound would have been quickly setup in rehearsal that afternoon. She sang Motown and the like with lots of energy and Southern Baptist Missionary voice so great. Interestingly, I notice her first recording was two songs a later Norman Connors album when he took on smooth jazz. (I count one of his early recordings, Love from the Sun, as one of my most played albums). And then the dance band, all hot and sweaty and rocky and funky, and they were really a great covers band. The Drop. Strange name but these were burners with a massive repertoire spanning the years. Two singers up front, a funky rhythm section with slap and the rest. I met bassist Sean Taylor. He'd been on ships for a few years, the band morphs every so often with members coming and going (the guitar and female vocals were relatively new) and he'd had years of touring England before. Suffice to say, this was a tight, skilled, entertaining mob.