REVIEW: Edana Minghella Quartet at the Brighton Festival Fringe

Edana Minghella Quartet
Photo credit: Brian O'Connor/ Images of Jazz

Edana Minghella Quartet
(The Verdict, Brighton. Brighton Festival. 27 May 2017. Review by Vincent O’Connell)


The Verdict cafe and Bar was full for Edana Minghella Quartet’s From Ella to Elvis set, their second Brighton Festival date.

Over the course of two albums and several years of constant gigging, Minghella has brought together a group of accomplished musicians who are committed to the project, and in this incarnation the ubiquitous Pete Maxfield on bass and Lee Goodall on alto sax were joined by the intuitive Mark Edwards on piano, a welcome addition who unobtrusively layers-in some imaginative complexity to often simple arrangements.

Minghella's voice has acquired a depth and gravitas that only experience could bring, it's an instrument that ably conveys emotional intensity without melodrama or sentimentality, and she demonstrates great judgement on, for example. Love Me Tender, never over-selling or giving the game away, always suggesting that something is held back, something important is left unsung and unsaid. That's where the listener gets to invest themselves in the song, and if there is the odd sob or discernable tear in the audience it's because they are invited to bring their own emotions to the party.

All the musicians are in tune with this aesthetic, Maxwell's silver bass trembles with tension, always throttling back a bit, not spilling the beans, especially when he is involved (as happens a number of times) with the intro and slow unfolding of a song, counting them in and counting them out again, most notably on All Or Nothing At All and the aforementioned Elvis. Lee Goodall's sax exemplifies the same self-control, taking wing with the swing on The Thrill is Gone and No Moon At All, a riffing rivulet weaving away from the song's emotional course and swimming back to the stream with dreamy ease.

The band take the audience on a quirky, illuminating and emotional journey, punctuating the standards that have been Minghella's mainstay (her second album is devoted to songs written or covered by Billie Holiday) with more surprising arrangements of songs in the pop idiom, and many of the highlights were from this latter group. The classics we have heard many times, but the ears really prick up when made to hear a familiar song in a new way- Bacharach's Alfie is revealed as a truly great song, bittersweet and aching, the singer's emotional poise countered and complemented by Edwards' considered twists and layers. Other enjoyable revelations are to be had in Catch the Wind and the Beatles' And I Love Her (the only place where percussion is missed).

It is perhaps this emotional investment in the "potency of cheap music", and the sometimes startling re-imagination of those pop tunes (good god, the Bee Gees!), which is becoming Minghella's signature, and she owns the stage with intense relaxation. Now more sparing with her spoken links, when she does engage, very impressively, through anecdote and reflection, it creates an environment for the audience to have involvement and participation with the material.

This is a singer and a band in the process of thrillingly finding themselves. The Verdict? Thumbs up.

Edana Minghella's From Ella to Elvis show will be at the Pizza Express Dean Street on June 13th

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