A SONG isn’t truly a song until it reaches out and grabs your heart, with both singer and accompanist sharing the enjoyment and responsibility of sensitively breathing life into its particular character. Communication is all.
Some five years ago, London-based vocalist Georgia Mancio founded her popular ReVoice! Festival (in association with the Pizza Express Jazz Club), and has since curated and programmed more than 160 emerging and established artists, including Norma Winstone, John Taylor, Kenny Wheeler, Carleen Anderson, Claire Martin and Gregory Porter. Amongst this abundance of live jazz showcases has been Georgia herself, making 44 appearances to date – and somehow, she has managed to whittle down numerous recorded accounts from the festival into this hour-long, twelve-track treasure trove.
What particularly stands out about this release is the raw, pared-down sincerity of the performances. Georgia Mancio shares the stage each time with a single guest instrumentalist – and rather than any sense of ‘anonymous accompanist’, there’s an enthralling synergy between them; in some respects, no surprise at all when the calibre of the musicians (listed below) is taken into account. These are bold, no-hiding-place expressions, and Mancio – as storyteller – possesses an innate adaptability, both in technique and artistry, to enhance the melodies and lyrics of these well-chosen pieces so naturally and so clearly, without the need for over-embellishment or showboating. And that’s classy.
Wherever you dive in, this music has the ability to stop you in your tracks. The wistful, affectionate poetry of Paul Simon’s I Do It For Your Love is softly illuminated by Mancio’s gliding phraseology and endearing vibrato, with Nikki Iles’ subtle pianistic invention typically exquisite; and the emotion of Sting’s Fragile is drawn into focus as Andrew Cleyndert’s cantabile double bass wraps itself around the vocalist’s poignant yet agile delivery. The impudent swagger of Hendricks/Turrentine number Sugar is priceless – a fabulously intuitive double-act with Mancio’s rapid, teasing phrases matched by Laurence Cottle’s bluesy, looped, 5-string bass brilliance; whilst Sammy Cahn’s The Things We Did Last Summer, to Colin Oxley’s luscious electric guitar chords and fleet-fingered extemporisations, couldn’t be more carefree (especially when Georgia’s signature whistling completes the sunshiny picture).
The wistfulness of Lennon & McCartney’s In My Life is elegantly reimagined, James Pearson’s rubato piano so at one with the vocal; as is Carole King’s Going Back, with Liane Carroll’s characteristic keyboard grandeur honouring that strong ’60s songwriting tradition. Michael Janisch’s double bass is recognisably and percussively ebullient (audacious, even!) in quickfire Just In Time, Mancio scatting energetically; and the shared Italian heritage of the vocalist and her accordionist Maurizio Minardi is eloquently expressed in Le Strade Di Notte, Minardi’s rising and falling dynamics intimating dimly-lit melancholy.
A handful of piano-accompanied jewels complete the selection, including delightfully waltzing yet bittersweet Bendita, co-written by Mancio and Tom Cawley; charming Willow Weep For Me (Jason Rebello’s harmonic searchings so magical); Robert Mitchell’s lithe fingerwork pirouetting with Mancio’s impressive vocal elaborations on Just Friends; and an irresistibly misty end piece, David Bowie’s When I Live My Dream, accompanied by Ian Shaw.
Seasoned fans of ReVoice! will probably be itching to get their hands on this. For any other appreciator of beautifully-fashioned vocal jazz… equally, it’s a must.