The Jazz Mann
Since 2010 singer Georgia Mancio has been hosting the annual ReVoice! Festival at London’s Pizza Express Jazz Club. The event is a celebration of the art of jazz singing and has featured leading jazz vocalists not only from the UK but from all over the world. In recent years the Festival has expanded to include other partner venues and has featured over 160 artists including Carmen Lundy, Carleen Anderson, Norma Winstone, Karin Krog , Kevin Mahogany and even Gregory Porter in the days when he still played pubs and clubs. Among these is Mancio herself who has performed 44 sets herself, often as a ‘support act’ to the stellar names she has attracted to London to perform.
Inevitably Revoice! incorporates the playing of some top instrumentalists too and many of these are featured on this collection of intimate duo recordings that feature Mancio performing with twelve different collaborators. The programme, sourced from the 2012, 2013 and 2014 festivals, incorporates jazz standards, imaginative interpretations of contemporary pop and rock songs, an example of Mancio’s ‘vocalese’ lyric writing and a beautiful original song co-written by Mancio with pianist Tom Cawley.
London based Mancio is one of the UK’s most accomplished and imaginative vocalists who is capable of performing in a variety of musical styles as this album demonstrates. Her earlier recordings also include similarly adventurous, but always tasteful, interpretations of jazz and popular songs and include “Perfect Place” (2003), “Trapeze (2007)” and “Silhouette” (2010).
In 2013 she released “Come Rain Or Come Shine”, an album featuring her singing alongside the guitar of Nigel Price and the double bass of Julie Walkington. I was fortunate enough to see this trio give an excellent performance at Black Mountain Jazz in Abergavenny that same year. Previously I’d witnessed Mancio leading a quartet featuring Walkington, pianist Robin Aspland and drummer Dave Ohm at Café Consort at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the 2012 London Jazz Festival.
Some of the performances on “Come Rain Or Come Shine” were duets with guitarist Nigel Price and the duo is clearly a format which suits Mancio’s talents very well. She’s an understated but technically accomplished vocalist and an excellent interpreter of a lyric.
She thrives in the exposed, intimate musical situations in which she finds herself on this live album which begins with her partnering the double bass of Andrew Cleyndert on an interpretation of Sting’s “Fragile” which adds a strong jazz flavouring to the song while avoiding the saccharine tendencies of the original. There may be a scat vocal episode but Mancio also brings out the full gravitas of Mr. Sumner’s lyrics without making them sound in any way pretentious. Meanwhile Cleyndert’s deep, sonorous bass tone is allied to a melodic lyricism, a combination that is a delight throughout.
“Sugar” finds Mancio collaborating with a very different kind of bass player, the electric bass specialist Laurence Cottle. Their interpretation of the Jon Hendricks / Stanley Turrentine tune includes Mancio’s additional vocalese lyrics alongside Hendricks’ words. Here Mancio demonstrates the flexibility of her voice alongside Cottle’s springy, fleet fingered, slyly funky – but always sensitive – instrumental virtuosity.
Mancio is joined by Nikki Iles at the piano for Paul Simon’s “I Do It For Your Love”. Iles is a superb accompanist and between them she and Mancio bring out all the pathos of Simon’s tale of love enduring amid life’s daily small catastrophes. There’s a burst of spontaneous applause for Iles’ mid tune solo, and rightly so.
The original song “Bendita” was written by Mancio and pianist Tom Cawley specifically for their ReVoice! appearance. The song is performed in waltz time and features a poetic but incisive lyrical reflection on the themes of love, loss and dreams unfulfilled. It’s sung by Mancio with a profound sense of involvement but incorporates little in the sense of improvisational embellishment.
There’s much more of a free-wheeling approach on “Just In Time”, Mancio’s lively bop inspired collaboration with double bassist Michael Janisch. Mancio demonstrates her talent for adventurous jazz phrasing and scatting and Janisch gives a bravura display of instrumental virtuosity as the pair spark joyously off each other.
Fellow vocalist Liane Carroll plays piano on the Gerry Goffin / Carole King composition “Going Back” and the two women establish an obvious rapport on a classy reading of the piece that brings out the real emotion hidden in the song. Recorded at the 2014 festival it gets a terrific response from the Pizza Express audience.
If “Going Back” was delivered fairly straight then “The Things We Did Last Summer”, a collaboration with guitarist Colin Oxley is more obviously a ‘jazz’ performance. Fluid and relaxed it includes an elegant passage of solo guitar from Oxley followed by a charming passage of whistling from the versatile Mancio.
Jason Rebello plays piano with great sensitivity and lyricism as he accompanies Mancio on the moving and emotional “Willow Weep For Me”.
James Pearson takes the piano stool for the Beatles tune “In My Life”. He too plays with an admirable sensitivity on a slowed down arrangement that brings out the full beauty of Lennon’s lyric on a song that was arguably the Beatles’ most mature song to date when it was first recorded back in 1965.
A trio of voice / piano performances concludes with Mancio’s duet with Robert Mitchell on an adventurous arrangement of the jazz standard “Just Friends”. Mancio’s ambitiously fluid phrasing and scatting is matched by Mitchell’s virtuoso pianism in a series of exciting, dazzling, technically brilliant exchanges.
Mancio describes herself of being of Anglo/Italian/Uruguayan heritage and she is able to sing in several languages. She demonstrates this skill to great effect with her sensuous singing, in Italian, of Giorgio’s Gaber’s song “Le Strade Di Notte” accompanied by the London based Italian emigre Maurizio Minardi on accordion. Mancio invests the song with great emotion, something that is matched by Minardi’s playing. He’s also a gifted pianist and his own performances as a leader feature his playing on both instruments.
The album concludes with that doyen of UK jazz singers Ian Shaw playing piano alongside Mancio on a beautiful arrangement of David Bowie’s “When I Live My Dream”, recorded at the 2014 Revoice! Festival. Listening to it now the performance takes on an extra poignancy in the wake of Bowie’s recent death, but it’s a superb performance in its own right with Mancio and Shaw on exactly the same wavelength.
Mancio clearly relishes performing in duo situations and this album is a good illustration of her diverse talents as a jazz improviser, lyric interpreter, and, of course, festival co-ordinator. ReVoice!, which takes place in October each year, has been a great addition to the UK jazz calendar and it’s good to see Mancio using it to further her own career with this admirably diverse, often moving, often exciting album that offers a good insight into her versatile vocal talent.
Even somebody like me, who usually prefers instrumental jazz, should find much to enjoy on this excellent recording.