I came away from this gig excited but a little bemused, bemused because,
taken individually, and broken down to it's composite parts, there were so
many failings; was the indistinctness of Sarah's vocals down to the PA or
her vocal mannerisms; the backing vocals came through perfectly well as did
the backchat between them all, Gilad Atzmon may be a multi instrumentalist
but jazz is a little more than running up and down scales trilling as one
goes and inserting the occasional recognisable snatch from a well known number,
and as for Ben Bastin on the double-bass - now I know what Plug from the
Bash St Kids grew up to be.
Actually I'm not sure that missing Sarah's lyrics was actually a negative, what I did hear seemed to vary between trite and teenage introspection to naive political commentary, she was much better when going back to the old standards; her rendition of Jimmy Cox' Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out was very good, not yet in the vein of Bessie Smith, who she credited, but good and with her own stamp on it. And so we come to her voice, a mix of C&W (could this be her Norfolk roots?), a howling R&B and the swallowed sounds of Eastern USA a la Melanie Safka, sounds when written, a vile mix, but it was rather special.
And special is the right word for the gig; there is a chemistry between
the three of them that shines through in both their material and their playing,
from Sarah's raunchy delivery which seems to hide something far more fragile,
a fragility that Gilad exploits like a teacher that has watched a student
grow up and blossom into a self-confident young adult but who still knows
them better than they know themselves or a 'wicked' uncle (Kenton Archer
anyone?) who encourages his nephews and nieces to take a few steps away from
their over-protective parents. And behind it all the solidity of Ben's double
bass, showing quiet support for everything that Sarah did whilst well and
truly keeping his own end up, if anything I'd have liked a bit more from him,
his one solo was excellent.
With a wide mix of influences, from Klezmer and Central European folk traditions, trad jazz, R&B, the New York sounds of Patti Smith and East Anglian C&W, even classical music, it was all in there, but very definitely their own take and delivered with verve, panache and more than a little humour.
It was a great gig and the David Hall is a good venue for such stuff, I hope their collaboration with Sherborne Jazz continues to put on acts of this quality. Let's hope they get their sound a little bit better though.