Review: Joanne Eden at The Stables

Derek Ansell checks out a singer billed as "the UK's answer to Diana Krall and Norah Jones" with Jazz At The Movies at Cleo Laine's Stables Theatre, Wavendon in early February

Surprising really that nobody much has thought of it before. A dozen plus songs from the movies, some well known, some not, some at classic status by now. Pianist Chris Ingham introduced the J@TM band and said that they were songs the band could happily play all night long. "But," he added, "we’ve packed a singer so we may as well use her."

Not just any singer that they packed either. Joanne Eden, who heads up this group, has the natural grasp of jazz phraseology that many vocalists miss and, together with a strong, warm, expressive voice, she knows how to put them over. He's A Tramp, from the Disney film Lady And The Tramp, had Joanna swinging gently, voice husky as she followed Arnie Somogyi's bass line before the rest of the rhythm section joined in. Frank Griffith's tenor was bright and bouncy in support.

Ms Eden's way with a jazz ballad is something else; Speak Low was sung the way this song should be handled but seldom is; she took it slowly and expressively, letting the lyrics tell the story effectively. Although this was a fine performance, check out her version on the J@TM CD 2012, which is even better: backed up as it is by a sterling solo outing from Frank Griffith. George Double kept the pulse moving at the drums.

Wives And Lovers may have backed itself into an unsupportable male chauvinism corner through its lyrics, but it is a good song and Joanna chose to sing it after pointing out its all too obvious shortcomings along with Chris, when he announced it. There was a good reading of Green Dolphin Street, an evergreen film song for all time and a jazz standard now. Joanna's gentle, probing Alfie brought out the best of the lyrics; another piece of music that can do with being divorced from the movie that gave it life.

Best of all, perhaps, was Joanne's quiet, reflective reading of All Gone, where she brought full power and intensity to the concluding lines with just Chris at the piano providing uplifting chords. This John Dankworth composition for the 1963 film The Servant was sung in the company of jazz royalty in the person of Dame Cleo Laine, who sat in the audience.

Joanne expressed nervousness about singing it with Cleo in attendance, but she needn't have worried; her performance was one of the major highlights of the evening. Movie songs like these almost all provide good material for the best jazz singers. Joanne Eden and her first-class band had a ball with them at Wavendon on Thursday and so did the audience.

Derek Ansell

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