Re-invention, mix’n match, trio, quartet et al, our jazz artists constantly find ways of keeping up changes to their musical menus and keeping up the attention of their audiences. At the moment it is also keeping pace with the constant changes to the handling of CV-19 in the entertainment world.
With the current maximum limitations of 6 performers on stage we are now seeing many inventive approaches by various small bands. Tonight we were treated to a sparkling show from Small (Melissa Western), Moon (Paula Girvan), Honey (Helen Svoboda) and Grace (Grace King) – and we even got an explanation of these newly-coined nicknames.
Three of these names – Melissa – voice, Paula – keys and Helen – bass – would have been enough to attract and satisfy a discerning audience, and the addition of Grace – drums to this all-girl band added the cream to the cake. The fact that this was announced as their first time together as a quartet drew a huge response from the eager crowd.
Perhaps as a portent of what may become a standard feature at BJC, as a result of her previous show in July, Melissa had arranged for the show to be live-streamed and was receiving comments and plaudits on how well this was being received on her phone throughout the show.
Often described as “a favourite daughter of the BJC” Melissa was on top form vocally and, after leading the audience in paying respects to indigenous elders, quickly had the audience in the palm of her hand, taking them to the Sunny Side of the Street with numbers such as One Note Samba.
Getting ‘down and dirty’ as she called it brought whoops and hollers from the crowd at her 4-octave ‘mouth trumpet’ improvisation on In the Dark. Following up with popular standards Under My Skin and Alright with Me Melissa then introduced us to Esperanza Spalding’s Precious – unknown to most of us but delightfully including some backup vocal from Helen. Melissa’s invitation for subjects from the audience to be included in an improvised Blues led cleverly to “Covid, Springtime, Lockdown, Uber” all woven into a very humourous ad hoc song, to wind up the first set.
The second set opened with swinging versions of Blue Skies and Old Black Magic and a gutsy rendition of Hard Hearted Hannah mellowing into the Jeff Buckley ballad Lilac Wine and the Billie Holiday classic God Bless the Child. A very positive and raunchy version of the iconic I’m a Woman with another ‘mouth trumpet’ solo was followed by online requests for Cry me a River and Every Day I have the Blues.
The obligatory encore finalised the show with a no-holds-barred version of Caravan leaving a well-satisfied audience with some great memories to take home.
Our thanks to Melissa, Paula, Helen and Grace for proving again that, even in these dismal times, fun and personality have as much a place in jazz as does the music, and that our little corner of Brisbane can present world-class and memorable entertainment….just wait until the restrictions come off!!
27 September 2020