REVIEW: Gwyneth Herbert, Andrea Vicari, Yazz Ahmed (Celebrating Women In Jazz) at 1000 Trades, Birmingham


Gwyneth Herbert at 1000 Trades
Photo credit: © John Watson/jazzcamera.co.uk
Celebrating Women In Jazz (Legends Festival) 
(Birmingham Jazz at 1000 Trades, Birmingham, 12 May 2018. Review and photos by John Watson)

Singer-songwriter Gwyneth Herbert seems to have an endless supply of ideas for subjects and moods. It’s almost as though her mind has an infinite toy cupboard she can raid for new ideas, which she can playfully mould into her intriguing songs.

With six albums to her credit, and with a seventh to be recorded soon, Gwyneth is creating a wealth of imaginative lyrics and melodies, on subjects both light and serious, ranging from artistic inspiration, to homelessness, loneliness, education, and love. Though the subjects of her songs may sometimes be serious, the mood at her concerts always seems to be dominated by joy and optimism. She’s a very upbeat, energetic lady, and her performance at the Celebrating Women In Jazz Festival in Birmingham was a delight.

The festival – held under the general banner Jazz Legends – is promoted by Birmingham Jazz, an organisation which has long been keen on encouraging the finest emerging talent on the scene, male and female, and which currently presents bands in the small but atmospheric setting of the 1000 Trades venue in the city’s Jewellery Quarter. Other artists to be featured next weekend (18-20 May) include Trish Clowes, Helena Kay, Kate Williams with Georgia Mancio, and Juliet Kelly.

This special celebration focussing on female musicians and singers opened with Gwyneth, backed by pianist-vocalist Ned Cartright, starting with the bitter-sweet So Worn Out, a tale of homeless characters (including one who only spoke Klingon), from her album All The Ghosts. She performed almost the whole show while standing behind a drum kit, using mainly the bass pedal for emphasis, but also at times giving gentle strokes on the cymbals, and playing at various times ukulele, French horn, a toy xylophone and using – for effect – a megaphone.

She emerged from behind the kit to sing her final songs at the front of the stage area, powerfully and yet without a microphone. Her encore song Midnight Oil, from the album Between Me And The Wardrobe, provided an impressive climax to a fine show.

Andrea Vicari at 1000 Trades
Photo credit: © John Watson/jazzcamera.co.uk
Andrea Vicari is a pianist I’ve mainly heard in other people’s bands, and her soloing, with its Horace Silver-ish gospel tinge, has always caught the ear. Vicari, who was brought up in Birmingham, is having an impressive career: performing in her early years with American luminaries such as saxophonist Eddie Harris and  trumpeter Art Farmer, scoring musicals, touring internationally, and working as a music educator in the UK and France.

At the Birmingham festival concert she appeared with rising star trumpeter and flugelhornist Yazz Ahmed, plus Vicari’s bassist husband Dorian Lockett and her brother Scott Vicari on drums.
Playing mainly originals, the band really got into its stride with Vicari’s devlishly driving Borovets, inspired by a trip to the Bulgarian mountain of that name – a freely improvised introduction evolving into a snare-driven uptempo groove, with the spinning feel of a Balkan folk dance.

Yazz Ahmed at 1000 Trades
Photo credit: © John Watson/jazzcamera.co.uk
Other highlights included two gorgeous original pieces by Yazz, La Saboteuse (the title track of her recent album) and The Lost Pearl, from the same disc. The burning glow of her flugelhorn playing was impressive, too, on the standard ballad You Don’t Know What Love Is, played in a gently flowing latin tempo. The structure of the theme came unfortunately adrift towards the end, but – as skilled improvisers do – the musicians overcame the discombobulation, smiled and calmly brought it back together.

Celebrating Women In Jazz continues on 18 May with concerts by singer Franki Dodwell, saxophonist Trish Clowes, saxophonist Denys Baptiste with a band including pianist Nikki Yeoh; on 19 May the festival features saxophonist Alicia Gardener-Trejo, pianist Wendy Kirkland, saxophonist Helena Kay, and pianist Kate Williams with singer Georgia Mancio; on 20 May the artists are singer Juliet Kelly, saxophonist Joey Walker with Me and 3, and Two Of A Mind with saxophonists Allison Neale and Chris Biscoe.

LINK: Full details of the Legends Festival: Celebrating Women In Jazz

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