Stacey Kent, Ronnie Scott’s

First published in September 2018. Mobbed by fans at the end of the Friday first house of her current run at Ronnie Scott’s who jostled with strollers and jazz fans rocking up for the later house the globe trotting singer Stacey Kent was in her home …

Published: 26 Dec 2019. Updated: 22 months.

First published in September 2018. Mobbed by fans at the end of the Friday first house of her current run at Ronnie Scott’s who jostled with strollers and jazz fans rocking up for the later house the globe trotting singer Stacey Kent was in her home town for the annual residency and the ultimate girl next door singer was loving it all.

Jim Tomlinson, who when the set opened began on concert flute and then during the course of the 80 or 90-minute set switched to either his tenor saxophone delivered in his typical Stan Getzian manner or straight soprano, had earlier explained speaking to marlbank at the bar that his lyricist writing partner the 2017 Nobel prize for literature laureate Kazuo Ishiguro who collaborated with him on ‘Bullet Train’ plans to be in the audience later in the run.

Last year’s ecstatically reviewed orchestral sessions proved the singer can surround herself in more lush settings and while this was a smaller more human and very different situation the set contained some numbers from I Know I Dream, ‘Bullet Train’ standing out. “Why’s it taking so long/For the night to fall?” in the lyric has that wistfulness the writers so easily evoke and which on ‘The Changing Lights’ an earlier song of theirs actually sums up Ishiguro and Tomlinson’s approach as the protagonists “vowed” to guard their dreams. This was not a dark set in terms of mood, more a sunny delight.

The audience was largely docile however a lit up inside fan in the audience spoke to the singer in Portuguese to which Kent responded in kind to the fan’s obvious delight. Graham Harvey on piano and Fender Rhodes electric piano was decorous as were the long tall bassist Jeremy Brown and quiet man of the drums Josh Morrison. A simmering ‘Dindi’ was the tender highlight of the night. SG Photo: Diane Sagnier

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Courtney Pine, Song (The Ballad Book), Destin-E Records

From 2015. Completely different to 2012’s Caribbean-themed House of Legends – Song has a little more in common with 2011’s Europa – this new album showcases Courtney Pine’s bass clarinet-playing heard here in duo with pianist Zoe Rahman. His …

Published: 26 Dec 2019. Updated: 22 months.

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From 2015. Completely different to 2012’s Caribbean-themed House of LegendsSong has a little more in common with 2011’s Europa – this new album showcases Courtney Pine’s bass clarinet-playing heard here in duo with pianist Zoe Rahman.

His sixteenth studio album, one of his most intimate in a long career at the top, recorded in London over two days of late-November 2014 and his first all-ballads affair, Song opens amid expansive chords with Sam Rivers’ ‘Beatrice’ followed by a warm version of Thad Jones’ ‘A Child is Born’ and the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ roughed up like a sea storm to begin with before the famous melody is relayed so very movingly.

That religious theme is also explored more radically and in a deliberately scratchily faraway vintage style to begin with in the intro to Duke Ellington’s ‘Come Sunday’, an Indo-jazz tanpura-like drone injected behind Rahman’s exploratory piano in a well thought-through twist giving way to Pine’s respectful interpretation of the beautiful melody.

A 1990s soul direction in terms of material choice then takes hold with the Brian McKnight song ‘One Last Cry’ performed quite straight, drawing out the melody with a minimum of artifice, and like so many things on this fine album dependent on Pine’s extraordinary interpretative resource.

‘B Intro,’ a brief Pine solo improv, acts as a sonic sorbet before the rendition of the perennially popular ‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square,’ with the sentimental David Foster-penned 1980s hit for Chaka Khan from I Feel For You, ‘Through the Fire,’ next. Hearing what Pine can do with this weepie on a bass clarinet is remarkable; on tenor sax if he ever plays the song it could be a showstopper.

Pine’s own composition the title track ‘Song,’ (the melody hinting obliquely at ‘A Nightingale…’) and then the most meaningful choice of the whole collection, a version of Donny Hathaway’s great 1970s anthem ‘Someday We’ll All Be Free’ Pine showing his power and control, complete the album. Rahman sounds like no other pianist on the UK jazz scene and she sparkles here mainly as an accompanist but also when she finds space of her own to explore, most strikingly heard in passages of ‘Berkeley Square.’ A reflective and subtle album of considerable artistry. SG