Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved design across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.

4

Live From Old York: Krystle Warren, Gwyneth Herbert & Katy Moffatt

Live From Old York: Krystle Warren, Gwyneth Herbert & Katy Moffatt
Martin Longley By

Sign in to view read count
Krystle Warren/Gwyneth Herbert
The Duchess
September 10, 2013

The Duchess is mostly accustomed to music at high volume, so this evening of intimate almost-jazz singer-songwriters highlighted the ripping sound of the joint's sticky beer-suction flooring on its small gathering's footwear. Baby Jesus forbid that any audience member dared head toilet-wards during a particularly delicate point in a song. Fundamentally, this was the rule for virtually the entire duration of each set, as the bias by both artists was emphatically on a sensitised soul-baring hush. Tables and chairs were pulled up close on this slow Tuesday night, as each performer offered a completely solo set: confrontational, embracing, stark, expressive and often filled with humour.
Londoner Gwyneth Herbert wasn't mentioned on the venue's website, but was listed on Krystle Warren's, so there were still a clutch of punters who arrived early enough to catch her performance. Herbert has had a fairly high profile in the UK over the last decade, initially as a more mainstream jazz singer. Her latest album, The Sea Cabinet (Monkeywood Records, 2013), represents a trawl into more individualist currents. It's outside of jazz, not really rock or folk inspired, but seemingly operating within the realms of pure stylised song, perhaps happier as a potential soundtrack to some mysterious would-be Lynchian seafaring flick. Surprisingly, Herbert only sang a couple of these songs, inserting them dramatically into a spread of more robust and ribald numbers from earlier albums. She usually has her band behind her, so this tour with Warren represented an experiment in aloneness, revealing Herbert and her ukulele in a sharply focused spotlight situation. She was almost in cabaret mode, littering the songs with anecdotal asides, cracking jokes and shifting the format by swapping between ukulele and keyboard, or even a completely a cappella delivery, as with "Perfect Fit," which drew on singing and clapping assistance from the audience.
The mood of the songs was equally varied, ranging from the light-hearted chirpiness of "My Narrow Man" to the mournful extensions of "Lorelei," with its meandering keyboard solo providing pause for contemplation, away from Herbert's dominant word-based stream-density. Her voice can scale the heights of sharply-pointed high frequencies, artfully directed away from the microphone's full force, or sweep down into a bassy gruffness, making Herbert capable of schizophrenic character viewpoints. She ended up sauntering between the tables, uke in hand, serenading individual audience members, then disappearing backstage. As a purely musical gig, the set was perhaps too sprawling in style and mood, but viewed as an extremely communicative cabaret show, it was a complete success. Presumably Herbert had assembled this particular act during her few days on the road with Warren, making the approach seem like something she'd been adopting for months rather than days. She's a naturally dramatic soul, wittily assured, and might even continue with this fresh channel for her repertoire.

Herbert's exuberant showing ended up presenting a potential problem for Krystle Warren, who operates on a much subtler level. This daughter of Kansas City now resides in Paris, and her stance is one of loose-tied vocal phrasing and convoluted guitar-picking accompaniment. Straight off, she was aware of Herbert's precedent, so she moved her microphone down from the stage, standing it right in front of the table-huddle. Then she proceeded to step to its side, spontaneously electing to sing straight out into the room. For a venue that's mostly accustomed to cranked-up guitar bands, The Duchess has a pleasingly warm acoustic under its low ceiling. Warren's voice rose effortlessly to mingle with her low-amplified electric guitar. The style is a composite of jazz, pop, blues, gospel, slow funk and general rootsy-spreading. In the end it's never completely stuck in any one of these genres. Her sense of humour is more subdued than Herbert's. More satirical. Warren's songs also feature less of an emphasis on their words. The listener is tempted to hold on to the actual sound of her voice, rather than the lyrics, as she dissects syllables and stretches out lines in unpredictable ways. It all sounded much less direct than Herbert's delivery, requiring a re-calibration of the ears so soon after that lively opening set. The cumulative effect of Warren's songbook can lead to a feeling of repetition and a one dimensional sonic spread. It's all very middle-range, even though she does share Herbert's ability to suddenly soar up into a higher strata.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Never Alone: Reflections on the 2018 Winter Jazzfest Live Reviews Never Alone: Reflections on the 2018 Winter Jazzfest
by Tyran Grillo
Published: January 21, 2018
Read Tierney Sutton Band at the Newman Center Live Reviews Tierney Sutton Band at the Newman Center
by Geoff Anderson
Published: January 21, 2018
Read Vorcza at Nectar's Live Reviews Vorcza at Nectar's
by Doug Collette
Published: January 20, 2018
Read Rossano Sportiello Trio at The Jazz Corner Live Reviews Rossano Sportiello Trio at The Jazz Corner
by Martin McFie
Published: January 20, 2018
Read Jazztopad 2017: Concerts In Living Rooms Live Reviews Jazztopad 2017: Concerts In Living Rooms
by Martin Longley
Published: January 17, 2018
Read Lean On Me: José James Celebrates Bill Withers @ NYC Winter Jazzfest Live Reviews Lean On Me: José James Celebrates Bill Withers @ NYC...
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 15, 2018
Read "Herbie Hancock at the Gaillard Center Music Hall" Live Reviews Herbie Hancock at the Gaillard Center Music Hall
by Rob Rosenblum
Published: October 23, 2017
Read "AJAZZGO Festival in Cali, Colombia" Live Reviews AJAZZGO Festival in Cali, Colombia
by Mark Holston
Published: October 13, 2017
Read "Lean On Me: José James Celebrates Bill Withers @ NYC Winter Jazzfest" Live Reviews Lean On Me: José James Celebrates Bill Withers @ NYC...
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 15, 2018
Read "Like A Jazz Machine 2017" Live Reviews Like A Jazz Machine 2017
by Ian Patterson
Published: June 4, 2017
Read "Bergamo Jazz Festival 2017" Live Reviews Bergamo Jazz Festival 2017
by Francesco Martinelli
Published: April 14, 2017