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Monday, October 17, 2016

Juliet Kelly - 'Bond to Bowie' @ Cotherstone Village Hall - October 16.

Juliet Kelly (voice); Paul Edis (piano).
(Review by Steve T)
The 'Highlights' rural touring scheme brings the arts to isolated communities and Cotherstone is certainly that. If you ever watch the Horror Channel it's like one of those communities where civilisation is left behind at the road turnoff, or so it seems on a cold, dark Sunday evening when there's no more cars, streetlights, buildings or people.
Actually it's a lovely, quiet, picturesque village with a typical village hall just like the site of all our youth clubs all those years ago, with a treat in store for its residents.     
Juliet Kelly must have thought all her Royal Variety Performances and Glastonbury Saturday night headlines had come at once when she heard Lord Paul, who she met the day before ahead of their Amble performance; two musicians both with great timing.
A show of hands to find out the favourite Bond - Sean of course - and straight into one of his films theme tune, From Russia with Love and it was clear from the off she knew her trade; a classic Jazz voice, low down the register and effortless; easy rapport with the audience of about fourty and always a smile on her face.
Come Fly with Me from Airline courtesy another great British Jazz vocalist Tina May, one of the first reality TV shows she informed us. I always think Paul loves to play this kind of stuff and always seems to raise his already high scoring game.    
Everybody's doing Tom Waites these days which is great news for those of us who await with trepidation which songwriters up and coming generations of Jazz artists are likely to plunder for their interpretations. Way Down in Harlem from the TV series the Wire and I'm going to have to check the discography once again to see where this falls in his timeline. She began humming along and I was immediately put in mind of Bill Withers, another esoteric artist within his genre, and this could easily be one of his, so I'm guessing there's some affinity between the two somewhere along the line.
Wouldn't it be Lovely and I'm only slightly disappointed it wasn't I Could have Danced All Night, one of my favourites from the musicals.
What a Wonderful World from the film Good Morning Vietnam and a man in front put some crisps in his mouth and must have left them there as he realised the absolute silence sans the singer and piano, the entire audience seemingly holding our collective breath through what, for me is probably the most inspirational number one hit single in this country ever. 
After creating what, from where I'm standing, is the first serious body of work outside classical music with the Hot Fives and Sevens, Louis Armstrong gradually became something of a joke, scorned by subsequent generations of Jazz greats, resentful of all that 'grinning for whitey', but what a  great swansong this pop record was for a true C20th original.
Tainted Love mercifully found her projecting Peggy Lee on to a song I didn't like as a Northern Soul classic in the mid seventies but grew to despise with Soft Cell. Tonight it was great, further illustrating that the interpretation is more important than the song itself.
I wasn't sure how the call for audience response would go down so I thought I'd better join in, albeit tentatively. Then I spotted the method in the madness as she turned us into backing singers to set her free for some ad-libbing, testifying and scatting and she proved to be a master - or is it mistress?
Mrs T and I had speculated whether there'd be a bar and she'd suggested it might be okay to take your own refreshments, but I declined. Having already won a bottle of Baileys in the raffle, another winning ticket gave me a choice of biscuits or cups, but I chose the biscuits and donated them to the driver though, had it been glasses, the night may have taken a very different turn, but some standards need to be maintained. 
Set two opened with the Bowie part of the set and Life on Mars from the TV series named after it, one of maybe half a dozen Bowie songs I rate amongst the best pop songs since Sinatra, though I'm conscious that's my age. Having said that, I worry our obsession with dead popstars may inflate his already excessive reputation and I fear the emergence of a Great British Songbook showcasing the usual media darlings.
Moon River by Audrey Hepburn via Breakfast at Tiffanys,  followed by New York New York from a Scorcese film I've forgotten and heed to remind myself of. This is one of three late Sinatra hits that he and his admirers hate and, while I love My Way and Strangers in the Night, this one I hate.
An original to follow - Forbidden Fruit - inspired by the Colour Purple, a book by Alice Walker and film by Stephen Spielberg which I've neither read nor seen but probably should, despite the spoiler.
A brave move to feature it amongst such iconic songs but it stood up well so look out for a Nobel Prize in the future in something or other, although on Dateline London somebody suggested Iggy Pop and I think John Lennon, Morrissey and Noel Gallagher, so she may have a wait.
Spider Man, Spider Man from the cartoon serious and I was uncharacteristically longing for some more familiar Jazz fayre and When you Wish Upon a Star from Pinocchio was near enough.
Last number was another original which again stood up well amongst such illustrious material. Little Things inspired by the novel God of Small Things complete with more audience participation unleashing some fantastic scatting.
All of Me by Ella as an encore and Lord Paul will be able to do this long after he's gone, bringing a most enjoyable evening to a close. Low key throughout, given the material it could have easily slipped into glorified karaoke but, with a fine Jazz voice and a master accompanist, it remained firmly on the side of good taste throughout.
Steve T.

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