All About Jazz (Critics' Choice)
Georgia Mancio celebrates 10 years as a professional jazz singer with Silhouette, her third album. The mix of standards and original compositions, delivered in Mancio’s light but distinctive voice, and accompanied by some of the finest musicians on the British jazz scene, is a genuine cause for such celebration. Silhouette is innovative, lyrically inventive, risky at times and always rewarding.
Mancio’s vocal delivery is reminiscent of Anita O’Day‘s; her enunciation is clear and precise but there is a lightness in the delivery that is immediately enticing. On most of the original songs she acts as lyricist, while two of the album’s three pianists take responsibility for the music—Tim Lapthorn composed four songs while Kate Williams does the job on “Silhouette.” Only one original song, “Finisterre,” is written by Mancio alone. It’s a strange, slightly threatening, first person tale on which Mancio is accompanied solely by Dave Ohm’s percussion. “Silhouette” opens the album, with a sad tale of an old man reflecting on his life “like a dream half-remembered” that could be inspired by the plays of Samuel Beckett. The backing, especially Williams’ piano and Julie Walkington’s bass, is superb and sets the standard for the remaining songs. A fresh arrangement of “Silhouette” closes the album—this time it’s a wordless a capella duet between Mancio and Ian Shaw that adds even more mystery to the song.
“Question the Answer” is a quirky number that might best be described as “semi-original,” wedding Mancio’s lyrics to Pat Metheny‘s song of the same name. The arrangement, by Mancio and pianist John Pearce, features fine piano from Pearce and elegant flute from Gareth Lockrane, while the lyric challenges the cynicism of politics and religion, albeit a little disingenuously. The tune swings, and the overall feel is strongly reminiscent of songs featured on the satirical British ’60s TV show That Was The Week That Was, as a musical commentary on current events. That program was both popular and controversial—the singer was Millicent Martin, a stylish jazz vocalist who later found greater fame as Daphne’s mother on the TV show Frazier.
Two covers merit special mention and ably demonstrate Mancio’s risk-taking. On Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan’s “Take it With Me,” Mancio delivers a beautiful and ultimately optimistic vocal, underpinned by sparse and empathic bass and cello from Walkington and Gregor Riddell. Mancio and Ohm’s arrangement of “Just In Time” plays with the rhythm and tempo of the tune, creating shifts in mood and style but never failing to ensure that the tune swings from beginning to end. It’s helped enormously by two more fine performances from Pearce and Lockrane, although Mancio’s vocal would benefit from added bite in the faster passages.
Silhouette is a fine album, demonstrating what can be accomplished by singers when they are prepared to innovate and take risks. Mancio’s performance—often within arrangements that would expose any weakness—puts her at the top of the ever-growing tree of jazz vocalists, and can only enhance her reputation.