April 15, 2008
Slide Bar, Oxford Street is a difficult venue for a jazz vocalist. Blessed with a hi- tech sound system but hindered by a somewhat small and an almost too close stage to audience set up , it is a venue that for the inexperienced could prove a conundrum. But for the Canadian vocalist Irene Atman's only Sydney gig it proved to be no folly. She's no inexperienced vocalist, having sung with the Stan Hiltz Orchestra, The Boss Brass Big Band, as well as Tony Bennett. And she has just released a self-titled CD to rave reviews around the globe.
Atman was on one leg of an extended tour encompassing Japan as well as Australia, a junket supported by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International trade. A singer possessed with a dynamic sense of melodic line and perfect phrasing of gorgeous melodies, she effortlessly conveyed to her audience lyrics of playfulness, joy, deep yearning and serenity according to the momentary requirements of the song's lyric.
Providing exemplary support, her Toronto-based trio mates, Richard Whiteman on piano and Jack Zorawski on bass, were the icing on the cake. It is an increasingly rare pleasure to hear two sensitive players like these with a vocalist of such refined expertise exploring the delusional hopefulness of the incurable romantic and paying such great respect to the timeless melodies of the Great American Songbook. When it happens it's just pure magic.
Atman's voice is extremely pure, centred and crystalline, using a style reliant on sureness of pitch. When singing standards, she communicates the emotional content perfectly in touch with both song and audience while commanding the stage with a mixture of sweet innocence and no-nonsense musicianship. The high point of the evening was her rendition of the Michel Legrand classic "Summer Me, Winter Me," with an arrangement that perfectly captured the tension of the song's poignant lyrics.
Jazz played antiseptically has little chance of catching fire, but when these three swung hard enough to ignite Bob Haymes' "That's All," "Simple Life" and Frank Loesser's "If I Were A Bell," there was smoke in the house. By the end of the evening Atman had the crowd calling for more! Forget about the venue there was a real singer in the house!