14 April 2018

Why every band needs a singer

I've said it before and I felt it again at this gig. Sally Marett was playing with the cream of our local players, Brendan Clarke, Hugh Barrett and Mark Sutton. John Mackey sat in for a few tunes, too. We could expect some incredibly capable and interesting playing and we got it. But beyond that, this was alive with the words of tunes we've all played from fake books knowing just the first line or so. These were songs not tunes. They were all standards, from the renowned American songbook, the popular music of the films and mid-20th Century US. We reel in response to some lyrics that sound so inane and yet there's depth and humour and subtly here. Rhymes, maybe, but we've learned that rhymes can express: no less than current uber-popular rap does that. The movies seemed all straight with defined roles and the rest, but there was depth expressed. I think of Romeo and Juliet as Maria and Tony but that's just my fave. "Beautiful love / what have you done to me"; "It's only a canvas sky / hanging over a muslin tree / but it wouldn't be make-believe if you believed in me"; "Flamin' with all the glow of sunrise / burning kiss is sealing / the vow that all betray". Words and themes the musos don't know. And the contact with audience that a singer creates. Words and thoughts are passions and immediacy. Far more than the indistinct, uncertain noises that are instrumental music. Not to put that down, but it's not so immediate, so shared, so understood. Play with a singer and experience the difference. Your playing is immediately just support, for the singer, the story and the emotions. Suffice to say I like that. Of course, Sally did a truly excellent job, up front, entertaining, great voice and contact. Of course, the band did a similarly excellent job, fabulously inventive and capable and quick and responsive and on top of it all, responding to each other and Sally. John sat in and did wonders, flourishing widely and busily and ingeniously on Softly. So all round, this was a massive treat. I sat with a smile on my face throughout. Sally mentioned the arts scene in Canberra as busy and satisfying. That night was just a dazzling example. Playful, fun, ruefully true in its period lyrics, a blowout and truly excellent entertainment.

Sally Marett (vocals) led her band comprising Hugh Barrett (piano), Brendan Clarke (bass) and Mark Sutton (drums). John Mackey (tenor) sat in for a few tunes.

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