London Jazz News

REVIEW – Kenny Wheeler/ Diana Torto/ John Taylor/ Palle Danielsson plus Georgia Mancio/ James Pearson (Pizza Express Dean Street, 10th October 2011, part of Revoice Festival)

This was the mid-point of the nine-night Revoice Festival, programmed by Georgia Mancio at Pizza Express Dean Street. It also marked the first appearance ANYWHERE of a new quartet, featuring the music of Kenny Wheeler.

This quartet has one more night tonight, and then they’re off for two dates in the major celebration of British jazz currently under way in the Muensterland Festival (of which my full write-up is now on– needs sign-up).

No need to ask whether you should go, or why you should go, just go. The uniquely melodic and inspiring music of Kenny Wheeler will still be getting played in a hundred years’ time, so I know that I will kick myself for the opportunities missed to hear its creator playing it.
What is it about this music? Last night I found myself in thrall to the tune “Mark Time.” I’m guessing it’s a nod to Kenny Wheeler’s devoted son Mark. I can’t think of another melody which has the trick of – somehow-  permanently rising. It’s the musical equivalent of one of those Escher staircases which never stops going up and up. I want to believe it’s alchemy and magic, but would a specialist in functional harmony tells me how he does that please? Or did I daydream it?

The Kenny Wheeler tunes inspire singer Diana Torto to amazing excursions and vocal pyrotechnics. I kept on thinking of the Steely Dan line “Even Cathy Berberian knows / There’s one roulade she can’t sing.”
Berberian was the wife of Luciano Berio and made her life in Italy. Torto is an heir to that tradition as much as of the jazz tradition. It’s a substantial voice for a small club, but her musicality and her commitment to this music are without equal. John Taylor is a pianist I would go and hear any day of the week, such is his ability to side-step, wrong-foot, change tack, create more textures than you’ll find in the complete Pantone range…. and in Palle Danielsson he has the ideal co-conspirator/ driver/ look-out/ safe-cracker for every one of these games of evasion. With a smile.

Nice to see people from Ronnie’s staff out last night too. Notable among them James Pearson, guest pianist for Georgia Mancio – the rest were supporting him. Chapeau. Pearson brought out the splendours of the lower reaches of the Steinway in “Day in the Life of a Fool,” and helped shaped a gorgeously slow and affecting John Lennon “In My Life.” And so to Georgia Mancio. She is the archetype of a modern singer who can style-hop at will and produce convincing, thoroughly musical and textually convincing versions of – er – anything. And when one thinks that her mind is also on subjects like the three-way interaction of alcohol, New York musicians and the N2 bus timetable, her performance was nothing short of remarkable.

The Revoice Festival runs till this Thursday. Georgia assures me that David Linx will be the highlight!!