wed 24/07/2024

Liane Carroll, Pizza Express Jazz Club | reviews, news & interviews

Liane Carroll, Pizza Express Jazz Club

Liane Carroll, Pizza Express Jazz Club

Spine-tingling album launch from the brilliant jazz vocalist and pianist

From sumptuous strings to stripped down solos: Liane Carroll

Some vocal jazz can be so anodyne that it barely registers on your consciousness, as anyone who's ever heard a jazz wannabe dusting down “My Funny Valentine” will know. A Liane Carroll gig, on the other hand, offers a roller coaster ride of emotions: joy, pain, hope, loss. With the ability to make every song sound like a personal experience, Carroll is one of the few singers who can make your spine tingle for an entire set.

Launching her exceptional new album Ballads last night in a newly refurbed Pizza Express Jazz Club, a luxuriant first set featured the singer with exquisite string arrangements penned by the German-born, LA-based arranger Chris Walden. Backed by a terrific band – pianist Mark Edwards, bassist Mark Hodgson, drummer Martin France, plus trumpet player (and album producer) James McMillan and saxist/bass clarinetist Julian Siegel – Carroll's interpretation of “Goodbye”, a song I first heard her sing with Quartet West at the Barbican, was marked by a hard-won poetic power.

Carroll's version of Janis Ian's hit 'At Seventeen' spectacularly hit the emotional bull's-eye

Carroll may have been feeling slightly under the weather, but her signature quick-fire banter was still very much there. “This one is normally sung by the wife of Dr Bruce Banner,” she noted, before launching into “You've Changed”. Recorded on her 2005 album, Standard Issue, Carroll's version of Janis Ian's hit “At Seventeen” spectacularly hit the emotional bull's-eye, the singer capturing the stifling air of teenage alienation to perfection.

Most miraculous of all was the arrangement of “What a Wonderful World” - one that Walden originally wrote for the American actress and singer, Renee Olstead. Chock full of gorgeous suspended chords, heartbreakingly beautiful voicings and with Carroll's big-hearted vocal right at its centre, it was an interpretation that will remain forever lodged in the hearts and minds of everyone who heard it.

In a slightly shorter second set, performed senza string section – an enviably youthful looking bunch, of whom Liane remarked that they had to leave at the interval to be home in time for their hot cocoa - it was great to hear the band getting to stretch out on an instrumental version of the Broadway show tune, now jazz standard, “Softly As In a Morning Sunrise”.

Carroll then hit us with another song from Ballads, Todd Rundgren's “Pretending to Care” in the key of D minor – the saddest of all keys, as Nigel Tufnel once remarked. As on the album, Julian Siegel's sinuous bass clarinet lines weaved in and out of the vocal to telling effect.

The singer has recorded a number of live versions of songs from Ballads for YouTube, including one that didn't make it on to the set list, Mary Gauthier's “Mercy Now”. Performing the song at the piano, the pin-drop silence in the club was quite astonishing: no whispered conversations, no clinking cutlery, no tills ringing. If Carroll has somehow evaded your music radar so far, Ballads is right at the top of the indispensable list.

Watch a clip of Liane Carroll singing "Mercy Now"

If Carroll has somehow evaded your music radar so far, 'Ballads' is right at the top of the indispensable list


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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