Jazz at the Movies, Ipswich Music Festival (2014): Shows I’ll Never Forget

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Movies are awash with jazz tunes, some instantly recognizable as title tunes, some a little more subtle as they play in the background on major scenes and on the turntables while the drama elapses. When you hear them, however, the memory kicks in — as illustrated by a new Jazz at the Movies album and concert that provided a mix of music, mayhem and memorable films through songs, themes and atmospheres.

The Jazz the Movies studio project opens with the ribald Huddleston/Rinker tune “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat,” from The Aristocats (1970) played with abandonment by the band with a notable drum section from George Double. This is followed by a teasing, atmospheric version of Porter’s “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” from Let’s Make Love (1960). On vocals, Joanna Eden switches from tuneful songstress to seamy temptress in the blink of an eye. She has strength behind her spot-on vocals and her voice is supremely suited to the middle ranges.

Burke and Lee’s “He’s a Tramp” follows, the vocals backed up by clear and vibrant bass from Mick Futton and a well placed solo from sax player Frank Griffith. Kurt Weill and Ogden Nash’s “Speak Low” from One Touch of Venus (1948) follows. This is the perfect vehicle for Eden’s vocals to soar — and they do. The sax solo injected in the middle is lovingly played and Griffith takes ownership before handing back the tune to Eden. Mancini/Migliacci’s “Maglic Stasera” follows form The Pink Panther (1963). This injects a distinctly Latin sound into the mix with a gorgeous piano solo from Chris Ingham, swiftly followed by the clarinet of Griffiths. This is followed by Don Black and Mark London’s “To Sir With Love,” from the film of the same name in 1967.

Mercer/Meier’s “Summer Wind” from For The Love of The Game (1999) brings a modern twist into the cauldron and the band work a little magic on it with a double bass solo afforded to the dextrous Mr Futton. Then comes Bart’s From Russia With Love from the film of 1963 which conjures up Mr. Bond. The misogynous lyrics aside, Burt Baccharach and Hal David’s “Wives and Lovers” from Goodfellas (1991), with its counterpoint beat sounds like the ’60s in a jar — whilst their “Alfie,” from the film of 1966 is far more pleasing word-wise and sung by Eden with emotion and clarity. Kaper/Washington’s “On Green Dolphin Street,” from the film of the same name in 1947, is one of the most covered straight-jazz numbers, and here it is given a special treatment by the entire band with great vocals and an interaction between sax and voice which creates a very special performance. Johnny Dankworth and Harold Pinter’s “All Gone” from The Servant (1963) finishes the CD with style.

This is a fun CD but made so because of the quality of the musicians. Eden writes her own songs, as well as playing with many musicians, and her presence on this recording adds a vocal finesse and style, whilst the drummer, sax/clarinet, double bass and piano of the other musicians are carefully choreographed and work wonderfully here.

As well as producing the CD, the band — with Alan Barnes taking on sax and clarinet duties and Andrew Brown taking over double bass — have toured with a Jazz at the Movies concert, adding workshops and a live version of the songs on the album plus a few other favourites thrown in for good measure.

I caught the show as part of the Ipswich Music Festival 2014, and found myself amidst a crowd of movie and music lovers packing the main hall on a cool Friday evening. The crowd was mixed; all ages had turned up intrigued to see the re-worked quartet of Chris Ingham on piano, George Double on drums, Andrew Brown on bass, Joanna Eden on vocals and special guest Alan Barnes on sax and clarinet.

Ingham acted as emcee, introducing each number, explaining the film it came from and sometimes adding interesting anecdotes for the audiences. He proved an amusing raconteur, instantly engaging the audiences and introducing the band, usually with some quip or comment, on their appearance or habits onstage. His details made the tunes accessible and made them make sense, because whilst some were obviously from known films, others were background numbers played at crucial times during the films.

Guided by Ingham, the audience quickly bought into the music, revelling in numbers which included such as “All Gone,” “Close Enough for Love,” “On Green Dolphin Street,” “Everybody Wants to Be A Cat,” “It Had to Be You,” “To Sir With Love,” “From Russia with Love” and many others. The evening was made just a bit special because young players from Ipswich School joined the group for the opening numbers of both sets and proved worthy of the honor. They had attended a workshop run by the group earlier in the day. Tunes like “Alfie’s Song,” “The Ipcris File” and “Get Carter” flowed effortlessly from the extended band.

Every musician soloed at times and proved entertaining in their own right, each one a seasoned performer. Ingham is a master of the keys, Double has a style all his own on drums and Brown’s bass playing was dextrous and almost note-perfect. Eden’s excelled in her live vocals proving the album quality was no fluke. Ingha, when he soars on the piano, is wondrous, surprising with his improvised inserts whilst Joanna Eden’s voice is supremely suited to jazz and soared above the musicians at times, adding a very special quality to the songs.

Her take of “What’s It All About, Alfie?” was simply amazing — a song which people either love of hate. On this occasion, you would be need a heart of stone not to love it. What Joanna brings to the songs is atmosphere: She changed from flirty good time girl to love stuck teenager to come-hither temptress in a heartbeat, emphasizing the emotions the songwriters’ meant to bring to the tunes. Her voice is, in a nutshell, glorious and she has an immense vocal range. Sax and clarinet player Alan Barnes was special guest and he brought his own style and quality to the group. His solos were dextrous and too many to mention, although a highlight had to be his improvisation on clarinet during “All Gone,” and his interaction with the drums and keys on many other numbers.

This was one of those evenings when the audience got more than they bargained for — superlative playing from the band, great humor from the emcee and a bit of an education, and the joys of listening to superb vocals and a sax player who wove in and out with a tight band as smoothly as silk. Simply a great, entertaining evening.

Sammy Stein

Sammy Stein

The Something Else! webzine, an accredited Google News affiliate, has been featured in The New York Times and NPR.com's A Blog Supreme, while our writers have also been published by USA Today, Jazz.com and UltimateClassicRock.com, among others. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Sammy Stein
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