Review: Georgia Mancio's Revoice Festival

Derek Ansell catches Georgia Mancio at the 2013 Revoice Festival, featuring vocalist Barbara Raimondi interpreting a programme of Ornette Coleman

The Pizza Express in Dean Street, London was the venue for the 10-day, fourth annual Revoice Festival during October. It’s organised by vocalist Georgia Mancio (pictured), who is curator every year and sings the first set herself before presenting the singers she has booked. This year was a particularly strong programme with appearances through the week by Kevin Mahogany, Allan Harris, Tina May with the Enrico Pieranuzzi Quartet, Sofia Rey, Beady Belle, Carleen Anderson and Carmen Souza. Once again Georgia has presented a mix of established and upcoming singers for her festival.

On Sunday 13th, the night I reviewed, Georgia began the first set in duo performance with pianist Ross Stanley. She sang a tricky new arrangement of Moon River, a Jobim piece and Bud Powell, a complex composition utilising many of the great pianist’s licks. Stanley was particularly impressive here at the keyboard. Georgia saved the best to last with a very moving interpretation of Goodbye, the Gordon Jenkins standard that has always fascinated jazz musicians and vocalists.

Italian vocalist Barbara Raimondi appeared with the Tony Kofi Trio in a programme called “Singin’ Ornette”. It isn’t easy to write lyrics and invent vocalese for Coleman’s music but this is exactly what she has done. Along with Kofi on alto, bassist Furio Di Castri and drummer Enzo Zirilli, she brought the idiosyncratic but personal melodies of Coleman to life, improvising scat lines in unison with Kofi’s alto and sometimes singing alone as the musicians laid out. It was because Kofi has obviously studied all of the early Coleman music in great detail that made this set such a success. There were times, listening to the furious interaction of alto sax, bass and drums, that I got a sense of the excitement that must have been generated when Coleman and his original quartet burst onto the New York scene in 1959. Ornette changed jazz forever and this set reminded us how significant this music was.

Barbara Raimondi used her considerable vocal range to reinterpret many of those early Coleman melodies, often using her own lyrics. And even though she was interpreting another musician’s work, there was quite a lot of originality in her singing. Her longish scat lines often went off at a tangent where the invention was all her own and the Coleman melody temporarily just a framework for her self-expression. She left no doubt about the tribute side of her performance at the end, however, with an exquisite reading of Lonely Woman, one of Coleman’s best and most played compositions. Here again she was sympathetically aided by her bassist and drummer and the uncannily accurate Ornette-sounding lines of Kofi’s alto sax.

The Revoice Festival has been going successfully for the past four years and is drawing attention to both the well-known and, most importantly, the new jazz singers on the block. Long may it continue.

Photo by Lara Leigh

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