Saturday, September 29, 2012

The James Morrison Big Band @ Top of the Cross

James Morrison in concert is always a wonderful thing, and so despite a headache, a long hard day, and absolutely foul weather, the scales still tipped in favour of making the effort to leave my nice warm house and venture out to Top of the Cross to hear him perform with his Big Band (of varying membership, one assumes, as I spied a few local talents in the lineup).

It was a good call; Morrison is always hugely entertaining, and never more so than when his brother John, the drummer, sits at the fore and shares the schtick. Of which there was almost more than the music. An added, and considerable, bonus was the inclusion of two vocalists, the truly fabulous jazz singer Emma Pask, and Liam Burrows, whose vocals are more of a lounge style, but with an amazing Buddy Greco/Sinatra/Matt Munro sound from a disproportionately slight frame.

Sound (this seems to be a recurring theme of late) was a bit of a problem, especially for Pask, with the Cross' guy forgetting to turn on her mic, and increasing the speaker volume to ear-splitting levels when she actually was asking for more foldback.  But she's much too good to let that bother her.  And it wasn't until I recognised a riff being played unexpectedly on piano that I realised they were short a guitarist, too.

Really, the only disappointment for me was that the charts were so familiar - and I do recognise that it must seem odd, when listening to a big band programme, to complain about hearing standards. But  the only arrangement of the evening I hadn't heard before was a lovely update of the Tommy Dorsey classic "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You". Pask's arrangements, though familiar, were at least wriiten for her and popularised by her. Burrows' were numbers we've heard everyone from Matt Rivett to Michael Buble to David Campbell sing over the last couple of years, and I confess I felt let down - while the average non-jazz-fan can't wait to hear New York, New York again, this was an audience of aficionadi, and it would have been nice to get something new.

Still - if you just wanted to hear some world-class perfomers and great jazz musicians at the top of their game, with a healthy dose of stand-up comedy, this was a great evening out, and all kudos to the Southern Cross Club for bringing us entertainment of this calibre.

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