Johnston St Jazz, July 9


Some artists may rejoice to hear that critics suffer nightmares, courtesy of events like a rained-out jazz festival one was to review, or an Emmanuel Brothers concert where the power failed early on. All was not lost that time, however, because the two guitarists continued entirely acoustically, and, with everyone craning forward to catch to each note, an arguably more involving intimacy resulted.

Lauren White. Photos: Perce Woodbury.

Trying to review a live video stream with no audio was a new cold-sweat scenario. Thankfully the problem was resolved about 20 minutes in, with the band blissfully unaware there’d been an issue until the end, when they graciously replayed one of the “silent” songs: a lithely swinging Exactly Like You. The experience made one yearn for the certainty of sharing the room with the musicians, just as the musicians yearn for audiences – not to mention income.

Lauren White performs the still-rare trick of singing while playing double bass. She has a warm, rounded voice, and, as on that encore, could bring some pizazz to her delivery, in company with Kali Gillen (tenor/flute), pianist Matt Harris, guitarist Josh Meader and drummer Alex Hirlian. While the quality varied considerably, one should probably cut the band some slack, with this being a one-off concert in the midst of a desert of opportunities.

White was at her most convincing when flying a vocal kite over Jobim’s Chega de Saudade, although her very blitheness was slightly at odds with the song’s fado-like sentiment. Ellington’s Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me was especially striking, because after a cruising bass solo, it was suddenly lit up by an imaginative piece of vocalese penned by Gillen, on which she played tenor in unison with White’s singing. Round Midnight was less effective, with White neither illuminating the words nor locating this masterpiece’s heart. Given that she already sings without a hint of grandstanding, one suspects she may yet dig down to a deeper level of truth.

Harris’s solo excavated much nearer the core of Round Midnight, and he dazzled on Chega de Saudade, but, again, perhaps at the expense of the song’s weighty sentiment. The most compelling solo of the abbreviated stream came from Meader on the old warhorse Route 66: a clawing, scratching, original and gritty affair.