London Jazz News

Finding Home @ Hang, Pizza Express Jazz Club, October 2017

While the stage grew quite crowded with four strings and a rhythm section plus the ever-lovely Georgia Mancio perched on the edge of the stage, close to Kate Williams at the grand piano, it was obvious that the tight-knit group were used to this arrangement. The physical feeling of closeness only grew as their music blended beautifully from the first note.

Such a special line-up of music is rare to find, and while Georgia’s “Hang” residency led to many different, exciting combinations over the course of the weekend, this one was the most-highly anticipated by far.

The singer and the pianist have each been working on their own individual projects, so to see them combine their skills to create yet another unique performance was something exceptional. They collaborated to write a selection of songs featuring Williams’ narrative melodies and Mancio’s emotionally charged lyrics all around the theme of “Finding Home”.

The entire evening developed through a beautiful arc of story-telling, first starting with a heartwarmingly fun melody from Mancio’s and Alan Broadbent’s collection Take the Journey Home. Bursting with positivity, the smiles on the faces of the musicians spread throughout the room. Kate’s arrangement seamlessly included the strings as though they had been there all along and the audience was invited to start this rare journey together.

Almost instantly, the depth of story-telling broadened through The Last Goodbye, delving into a sparse, ghostly melody paired with Mancio’s lyrics, creating an image of someone left behind.

Williams’ arrangement of No More Blues had a Django-esque slow-quickness about it as the audience realised without notice that all eight musicians were swinging so hard together as solos ensued. The string quartet soli was like listening to Lambert/Hendricks/Ross rip into an instrumental solo – hard to tell that it was four instruments, not just one.

I Cover The Waterfront – Mancio’s voice softly hummed as the bass joined the string quartet as if part of the family, led to beautiful solos from John Garner on the violin and Williams on piano in discussion with each other. The pianist’s Orchid Avenues was a trio feature building to an ethereal ending that shows that story-telling doesn’t always need lyrics. The message was clear.

Williams and Mancio explained to the audience how they worked collaboratively, sometimes apart at first on their own areas, and then bringing the two together to rehearse later on. Writing from different inspirations – sometimes just a picture that had spurred Mancio to write lyrics, sharing that picture with Williams. It is something very special to hear their teamwork come to fruition.

Composers are often compelled by things close to their heart and the messages and images that the pair shared through song were so poignant. At times, the music could depict an almost tangible sense of destruction – the ostinato in The Last Boy on Earth initiated a really sense of uneasiness. But it was followed up with a feeling of determination as we moved through Exodus and into Halfway. Suddenly, the confidence felt through the music lifted everyone out of musical and literal dissonance.

Another Broadbent/Mancio piece, Quiet Is the Star, arranged by Williams for the strings, was a delightfully soft lullaby. A tender cello solo played by Sergio Serra carried us sweetly to a beautiful tribute to Williams’ dad, John, and a moment for the artists to reflect on family and belonging. Mancio felt impelled to write words after hearing daughter and father play it together. Slow Dawn reminisced about difficult moments, starting anew and encompassed a feeling of roundedness.

Reaching the end, a beautiful homage to loved ones now gone had everyone almost in tears. It was clear that Mancio and Williams were both so proud of the evening that had come together – as they should be! It was an absolute delight to be in the audience. Everyone had a say in the final, upbeat Play, the music reflecting the title with a child-like quality.

Check out Kate Williams and Georgia Mancio separately and cross your fingers that they will collaborate again.