The Jazz Mann


Georgia Mancio/Nigel Price/Julie Walkington Trio, Black Mountain Jazz, Abergavenny, 18 June 2013

Vocalist Georgia Mancio is currently engaged on an extensive twenty four date UK tour that sees her working in a variety of instrumental formats. Some dates feature her duo with guitarist Nigel Price, others see this pairing augmented by the double bass of Julie Walkington. Yet more feature Mancio’s quartet which teams the singer and Walkington with pianist Robin Aspland and drummer Dave Ohm.

I first discovered Mancio’s singing when I saw the quartet named above give an enjoyable lunchtime performance at the Royal Albert Hall’s Café Consort as part of the 2012 London Jazz Festival. The quartet’s music was eminently accessible but was possessed of a spirit of quiet adventure as they presented two engaging sets of jazz standards and original songs.

I was therefore more than happy to check out Mancio again, this time in trio format, on the latest stop of an exhaustive tour that includes both club dates and festival appearances. It was perhaps appropriate that the Abergavenny date featured the trio as tonight’s set drew heavily on the recently released album “Come Rain Or Come Shine”, a standards album credited to Georgia Mancio & Nigel Price with Julie Walkington. The album was recorded in a “live in the studio” situation at London’s Loft Studios and was engineered and produced by Price with assistance from co-producer Mancio and Chris Lewis (mastering).

The album begins with an intimate duo version of “Alone Together” which opened the show in identical format here. Mancio’s pure, well enunciated vocals were subtly underscored by Price’s elegant bebop flavoured chording, his style noticeably influenced by his all time guitar hero Wes Montgomery with some Kenny Burrell and a little of the UK’s own Jim Mullen in there too.

Walkington joined the duo for “That Old Black Magic” which also happens to be the second track on the album. Here Mancio displayed a real talent for jazz phrasing as Walkington added impeccable time keeping and proved to be an absorbing double bass soloist as she shared the instrumental limelight with Price.

Mancio stuck with the running order of the album with “Softly As I Leave You”, a song written by the Italian Tony DeVita and the choice a nod to Mancio’s own Italian roots. The song has been covered by Frank Sinatra, Matt Monro and Elvis Presley but you’d be hard pressed to beat this voice and bass duet with Walkington introducing the tune unaccompanied and with Mancio’s lines seeming to hang in the air as the duo made maximum use of the space between the notes. The air of fragile beauty was haunting and effective.
Price added his guitar as the song segued into the Brazilian tune “Manha de Carnaval”  (by composer Luiz Bonfa and lyricist Antonio Maria) in its English guise as “A Day In The Life Of A Fool”, the same transition also occurring on the album.

Mancio has a particular fondness for Brazilian music as her London show had demonstrated and the trio now departed from the repertoire of the new album to perform Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Chega De Saudade” with the vocalist mixing both the original Portugese lyrics and the English words added by John Hendricks that transformed the title into the more familiar “No More Blues”. Mancio switched seamlessly between both languages and provided additional rhythmic impetus by playing a shaker behind a typically pithy and elegant Price solo. The piece appeared in different form on her 2003 début album “Peaceful Place”. “The lyrics are about homesickness” the singer explained “but it’s not always easy to get inside that song if you come from Croydon!”.

It was back to the album for “We’ll Be Together Again”, written in 1945 by Frankie Laine and Carl Fischer. This subtly blues inflected version began as a duet between Mancio and Price with Walkington added as the tune progressed. The bassist shared the soloing duties with Price, throughout the set it was a hallmark that the instrumentalists’ solos were tasteful and intelligent and just the right length. As Mancio was keen to emphasise this was a genuine trio not a singer plus backing band and the ego-less approach adopted by all three served the music well throughout. Interestingly this piece is actually the final track on the new record.

The trio rounded off the first half with a playful version of “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” with Mancio demonstrating her scatting abilities in a series of good natured exchanges with Price and Walkington. Introducing the song Mancio commented on the dating of the “Woolworths” line in the lyric, a sign of these troubled economic times.

The second set began in the same way as the first with the duo of Mancio and Price. Here they performed the Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer song that serves as the title track for the new record. Relaxed and intimate this was a delightful way to welcome the audience back into their musical world.

With Wakington back in the fold they performed a compelling segue of three non album tracks merging Jobim’s “Bonita” with Henry Mancini’s “Charade” and Artie Shaw’s “Moon Ray” in effective and convincing fashion.

Jobim’s seemingly cheery bossa “Voce Vai Ver” brightened the mood despite Mancio informing us that the lyrics are actually a bitter chronicle of revenge. As Mancio said everything sounds sunny and happy when sung in Portuguese.

However Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “A House Is Not A Home” really did dig deep into the emotions with Mancio singing with a profound sense of involvement. She is a highly skilful story teller and was thoroughly convincing here first in duet with Price and then with the trio as a whole. The guitarist produced arguably his best solo of the night and at the end we had the unusual sight of the band applauding the audience in appreciation of our collective attentiveness (didn’t Hatfield and The North do something like that once?).

Things ended on a lighter note with the 1939 Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Mercer song “I Thought About You” which began as a bass and vocal duet and also gave notice of Mancio’s whistling skills in a series of charmingly whimsical exchanges with Walkington. It was left to Price to take the final instrumental solo of the night, the guitarist rounding off a fine night’s work. He’s a supremely versatile player who performs in both the jazz and funk idioms and runs his own organ trio featuring Pete Whittaker (Hammond) and Matt Home (drums), a combination I saw play two hugely enjoyable sets at the 2011 Lichfield Real Ale, Jazz & Blues Festival. Price has also worked with the highly popular James Taylor Quartet (JTQ).

A small but attentive and appreciative audience were treated to an encore of Rodgers & Hart’s “Falling In Love With Love” taken at a faster pace than the version on the new record. Tonight’s version was a veritable romp featuring boppish guitar, propulsive bass and joyous scat vocals.

The album “Come Rain Or Come Shine” is both an attractive souvenir of the trio’s live shows and an enjoyable piece of work in its own right. Besides the pieces heard tonight it also includes the songs “Gone With The Wind”, “Give Me The Simple Life” and “Moonlight In Vermont”. Like tonight’s show it it offers a good demonstration of the understated and always tasteful chemistry between Mancio, Price and Walkington. Mancio may be an understated vocalist but she’s a highly skilled one and a fine interpreter of both jazz standards and contemporary popular song as her earlier albums “Perfect Place” (2003), “Trapeze (2007)” and “Silhouette” (2010) also attest.