Finding Home, Watermill Jazz, May 2019

In short, this Watermill visit was a key stopping point on their promotional tour celebrating their co-authored album release, Finding Home. Add in the guest appearance in the second half of John Williams, the internationally renowned classical guitarist and it’s no wonder the tickets sold out fast.

The question for at least one committed listener, was did it swing? Well, yes and no, was the answer. The Williams view is simple enough, create a viable fusion of the two genres, write sympathetically for both ends of the spectrum, let the trio swing and allow the Guastalla Quartet to underpin or take the lead: all for one and one for all. Williams is a resourceful keyboard artist, adept at tricky motifs that build momentum and tension too, darkly chorded at times, at others quite sprightly, with the expertise of bassist Oli Hayhurst and the very tactile drumming of David Ingamells to ensure movement; the strings tucking in to serve each piece’s rise and fall.

All that said, it was the songs that carried the evening with Mancio’s sincerity and eloquence wholly convincing: each explained as it related to the album’s concept of ‘home’, Mancio’s song cycle evoking the plight of the Calais refugee children at its core and truly moving. Her singing has now reached an almost sublime level, clarity and poise personified, phrasing with the ensemble or soaring over, intimate yet dynamic, her liaison with Williams’ musical line just or jubilant as the song requires. Victor Jara’s ‘Caminado, Caminado’ was a triumph, as was Jobim’s ‘No More Blues’. It was Williams Sr’s turn in the second half, his daughter’s extra pieces cleverly structured to allow his clear-cut command to show through, his perfect introduction to ‘We Walk’ leading to an impassioned reading by Mancio. Jazz arguments aside, the entire event was a delight.