London Jazz News

You may have heard British singer Georgia Mancio in one of her duo sets, opening for the main acts in the ReVoice! Festival she organises at the Pizza Express Jazz Club, or on one of her many British gigs. The duo (here with excellent guitarist Nigel Price) is the perfect setting for her subtle sense of swing and what she calls ‘storytelling and improvisation as equal partners’. This album feels like a well-paced live set of lesser-known standards, sometimes augmented by Julie Walkington’s fine double bass.

Alone Together starts colla voce; the voice is deep and gentle: the lyric ‘We’re strong as long we’re together’ could describe her rapport with the guitar. A guitar/vocal duo invokes the classic Ella Fitzgerald/Joe Pass recordings, and as the song moves into unhurried swing, Price’s walking bass lines and richly-voiced chords are in the Pass tradition. Mancio improvises using the words, pulling the long vowels into new shapes, Ella-style, but with a vocal timbre more like Anita O’Day. In That Old Black Magic, Price’s boppish solo bounces at breakneck speed off Walkington’s strong bass, and Mancio sounds as if she’s ‘…loving the spin I’m in…’

On previous albums Mancio sings at times in Italian and Portuguese, (she’s part Italian) but here Softly as I Leave You and Manha de Carnaval are in English. They’re companion pieces, unrequited love seen from two viewpoints, and joined by a thoughtful bass solo. The first is just voice and bass, the nylon-stringed guitar coming in on the Latin Manha de Carnaval for a gorgeously melancholy solo. Mancio is having a conversation with the listener; as she slides down breathily on ‘gloom’, she brings out the intensity of the lyrics.

Gone With the Wind, blowing between 6/8 and 4/4, has some Kenny Burrell swinging bluesiness on guitar, the voice gliding like a sax. Mancio can often sound like June Christy, especially in the speedyGive Me the Simple Life, with its breathlessly descending chords and shiny steel-strung guitar solo. Mancio doesn’t miss a beat, her phrasing jazzy but always keeping the sense of the lyrics. Moonlight in Vermont evokes the mood beautifully with slow vocal lines against the livelier Latin guitar. In Falling in Love With Love Mancio sings with a twinkle in her eye and Sheila Jordan’s childlike joy. She scats beautifully in four-bar bursts with bass and guitar, emphasising how much the voice is one of the instruments, never just a singer with a backing band.

The slower swing of Come Rain or Shine has some fine chord-solo work from Price, moving into the bass and guitar extended intro to We’ll Be Together Again. Price’s warm tone and shimmering arpeggios recall Jim Hall behind the free bass solo. Mancio told one interviewer: ‘With a ballad, the acid test is: have I moved myself? It’s important that the song affects me emotionally, otherwise it just feels like I’m going through the motions.’ As she sings: ‘No tears, no fears, remember there’s always tomorrow’, it’s a very touching moment.

Georgia Mancio lets the songs breathe; her voice is light but never lightweight, and Nigel Price’s guitar is extraordinarily accomplished. Their love of the songs and jazz tradition shines through.