London Jazz News

ROUND UP – Georgia Mancio’s ReVoice! Festival 2011

All credit once again to popular vocalist and innovator Georgia Mancio for achieving sell-outs and a genuine sense of international teamwork throughout her second annual (we hope) ReVoice! festival at Pizza Express Dean St earlier this month.

Following the rousing opening night featuring a true first, a striking duet between Georgia and electric bassist and composer, Laurence Cottle and sealed with the ever-flawless, inventive and much-loved doyenne Norma Winstone, came one of the hippest highlights of this nine-day, 37-artist celebration. Gregory Porter, the hugely engaging baritone jazz singer fast making a name for his intense originals, chose against the odds to treat his audience to the full-on energetic soul of a pure Motown opener, Way to Harlem. You can’t find it on I-Tunes yet but the song is already on the list for his planned second release in 2012, featuring mix of swing, soul, R&B, gospel and “a lot about love, family and life”.

But pure jazz lovers didn’t have long to wait. Already well-served by Georgia’s nimble opening jazz set with pianist Nikki Iles, Porter’s audience relished a rich-toned compelling Skylark, one of the best versions I’ve heard. Wayne Shorter’s Black Nile from Porter’s current much-acclaimed album Water brought his raw energy to the fore as he almost physically propelled an already incredibly powerful rhythm section of Geoff GascoyneGrant Windsor and Dave Ohm. Outstanding full-pelt solos from saxophonist Ben Castle and trumpeter Graeme Flowers made this an exhilarating start to a set that never faltered.

Irresistible tones of 70’s and 80’s pop-soul singers were present throughout and easily as prominent as the smooth Nat King Cole sound he is so frequently credited with.

The highlight was Be Good, a beautifully written and perfectly delivered ballad about “a woman who broke my heart”, the title track of his next album. It was upstaged only by his magical signature tune Illusion and the high-energy political soul anthem single, 1960 What? A great start to the weekend.

And the treats kept coming. Following a scat-collaboration and whistle –off on Sunday between Georgia and guitarist Jim Mullen, the American vocalist Sachal Vasandani, a mentee of Jon Hendricks, played an almost continuous sophisticated and slick set for an entire hour without pause.

Monday saw Italy’s newest diva, Diana Torto, who fronted trumpet legend Kenny Wheeler’s new and remarkable Something Else quartet for two popular nights. This was one of Georgia’s personal favourites, as well as a tearjerker, in her own duo set, of a piano solo on In My Life by James Pearson, which she admits would have rendered her soundless has she not been on stage with him.

Wednesday’s magic was Contigo en la Distancia led by Italian vocalist, Barbara Raimondi, with Brazilian guitarist, Roberto Taufic, and UK-based Italian percussionist and drummer, Enzo Zirilli. Their musical painting of Latin America showcased Raimondi’s wonderful sense of rhythm and passionate delivery.

Georgia and monthly Dean St bassist Michael Janisch brought subtlety and gentleness to Thursday’s audience, which gave way to a dynamic groove-laden set again featuring Janisch alongside sax maestro Nigel Hitchcock, exciting young pianist Ross Stanley and led by Irish-American singer/guitarist Brian Hanlon.

The week closed with a double bill of sheer class as Georgia and Ian Shaw opened the show with easily their most impressive and entertaining collaboration to date. Highlights were a moving Alone Again Naturally (Gilbert O’ Sullivan), an outstanding vocally dexterous multi-tempo/multi-feel Willow Weep For Me and a rousing bi-lingual treatment of a favourite of these longstanding friends and collaborators, Bowie’s Life on Mars.

And so to the very eagerly anticipated Belgian singer and composer David Linx, with his award-winning Dutch pianist and collaborator of 20 years, Diederik Wissels. Steeped in classical influence and with incredible agility, this was a bold presentation of 8 originals, from dark, almost sinister ballads to high-speed percussive scat-fests reminiscent of Bobby McFerrin. Always commanding and very physically expressive, yet locked reflectively inside the melody and lyrics, he is at once both showman and introvert, quirkily original and somehow quite incomparable. The touching Proper Shelter, featuring Wissels extraordinary classical talents and the closing I’m Going Home were notable high points; yet judging by the reaction at Dean St, it won’t be long before he’s invited back to the UK…perhaps by Georgia.