REVIEW: Zoe Francis and the Jim Mullen Trio – Remembering Blossom Dearie

Zoe Francis
Publicity photo supplied
Zoe Francis and the Jim Mullen Trio – Remembering Blossom Dearie  
(Lauderdale House, 17 May 2018. Review by Brian Blain)

From the brilliant East Coast dramatic comedies of Noah Baumbach – a current series on Netflix and recent writing by singer/author Tracy Thorne – enthusiastic references to the work of Blossom Dearie, American singer/pianist, favourite of Ronnie Scott, Annie Ross and Georgie Fame in the late '60s, have been appearing in increasing numbers lately.

Zoe Francis wasn't even born when Dearie was a big favourite in London and Paris, and the BBC wasn't afraid to put such talent on mainstream TV spots, but since I first heard her about five years ago it was obvious that she had a real talent for spotting and presenting old neglected material rather than the more familiar favourites of Berlin, Porter, Kern and the like. So there was no suggestion of jumping on a bandwagon when she presented her Remembering Blossom Dearie package at Lauderdale House last Thursday with her "dream team" accompanists – Jim Mullen (guitar), Barry Green (piano) and Mick Hutton (bass) – sounding absolutely perfect in the live acoustic of this appealing venue.

It was a good crowd that had turned up, many quite knowledgeable but wthout that awful clapping the song thing before it starts to show how knowledgeable they are; even so, if it wasn't quite so tricky I am sure that some would have been up for a sing along on Dave Frishberg's I'm Hip or the drier wit of Peel Me a Grape, the closest Zoe came to the jazz cabaret side of Blossom's oeuvre. Mullen's arrangements showed neat and clever touches throughout, like the quote from Django's Nuages in the intro to Cy Coleman's The Riviera and a more house-trained Bo Diddley beat on Some Other Time, a collaboration between Bernstein and Broadway hit writers Comden and Green.

Zoe makes no attempt to copy the sound or manner of an inspirational figure, choosing to be just herself and deliver a rich catalogue of songs with an appealing blend of strength and, almost, cool with amazing clarity of articulation and perfect grasp of time and relationship with her fellow musicians. We have all seen initial enthusiasm for artists begin to peter out as sets wear on, but on this occasion the audience were with Zoe all the way through and the demand for an encore was both loud and very genuine.

A lovely, delightfully subtle evening; it will all be repeated at Pizza Express in Dean Street at lunchtime on 8 July.

Brian Blain is a programmer at Lauderdale House

Jazz at Lauderdale House continues with David Gordon’s Trio and Alexander Scriabin’s Ragtime Band on 24 May, followed by Stan Sulzmann with Nikki Iles on 31 May.

LINK: CD Review by Jane Mann – Zoe Francis' Remembering Blossom Dearie

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