Friday, February 23, 2018

Jazz: Jessie Gordon is Ruining Your Night (★★★½)

Jessie Gordon with Lani Melrose
Mark Turner (Sax/guitar), Jon Matthews (guitar), Karl Florisson (Bass), Michael Perkins (drums)

Jessie Gordon should be crowned the Queen of Fringe. The jazz singer rips out great swathes of shows (six this year alone) for the festival, some of which are reruns of old favourites, some newly-minted the occasion.

The newcomers this year are Live Electric Loops, with the chanteuse using loop technology to beef up a solo show, and this one, Jesse Gordon is Ruining Your Night, a showcase of songs from way back to the present day with stories to tell about her life and career.

She’s enlisted her regular quartet, Mark Turner (Sax/guitar), Jon Matthews (guitar), Karl Florisson (Bass) and Michael Perkins (drums), brought along her loop pedal and something particularly slinky to wear, and the result is decidedly easy to take.

It all starts with the voice, of course. Gordon has a limpid, tripping style which lets her make the most of some tricksy phrasing in the opener, I Can’t Give You Anything but Love and It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie; and she can scat, and she can belt.

Her band is completely in sync with her and the material, and there’s enough solo heft from Matthews’s guitar and Turner’s sax to keep our interest up through standards like All the Way, Fascinatin’ Rhythm and Lullaby of Birdland.

But, in keeping with her theme, Gordon often takes us out of jazz into different styles and different musical eras. She terrified me when she said she was gong to do a Leonard Cohen number, but we (or at least I) dodged a bullet when she jazzed up his Dance Me to the End of Love, she dismissed the ban and pushed the loop pedal to the metal for Sun Little’s Lay Down.

The highlight of the evening, though, was her own Leave no Trace, a gorgeous harmony ballad (with her guest, Lani Melrose and the band in great vocal form). I’d love to hear more of her stuff.

There were a couple of mis-steps. A story about an ogling punter and his deadshit “mates” after her New Year’s Eve show at Ellington’s needed a bit of tightening to have the impact it warranted, and the closer, “Padam, Padam” is too typical a Piaf to warrant its spot in the set.

And then, in the encore, Jessie Gordon ruined my night. I hadn’t dodged a bullet after all. I have no idea why so many artists insists on doing Hallelujah, or why audiences go all gooey every time they hear it (it is, after all, the hard-heartest, most dispassionate of songs). 
I just wish they’d stop it.

(Jessie Norman Will Ruin Your Evening won the Music and Musicals Award at the 2018 Fringe World)

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