Gig Review:
Japan Fundraiser Concert at The Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho,
London W1 on Monday, 30th May 2011
Japan Fundraiser Concert

In Aid of The Japanese Red Cross

Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho
10 Dean St., London W1D 3RW
Monday, 30th May 2011, 8pm

Date of Review: 2011/05/31

Feat. in order of appearance:

Kit Downes Trio:

Kit Downes - piano
Calum Gourlay - bass
Enzo Zirilli - drums
Special Guest : Michael Chillingworth - alto sax

Gwyneth Herbert, w/Kit Downes Trio

Barb Jungr
w/Simon Wallace - piano

Sarah Gillespie Quartet:
Sarah Gillespie - vocals, guitar
Gilad Atzmon - soprano sax, clarinet, accordion, harmonica
Ben Bastin - bass
Enzo Zirilli - drums

Mari Wilson
w/Adrian York - piano

Girl Talk: I Am Woman
Mari Wilson, Barb Jungr, Gwyneth Herbert - vocals
w/Adrian York - piano
Japan Fundraiser Concert at The Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho,
London W1 on Monday, 30th May 2011

The Pizza had filled to capacity, albeit slowly, for last night's Japan Fundraiser Concert in aid of the Japanese Red Cross and the victims of the recent horrendous tsunami, in spite of this being a bank holiday Monday. In view of this, with the addition of the raffle with a first prize of a pair of tickets for Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts' gig at the Pizza later in June, a very decent amount could be expected to be raised and indeed, was. But one would expect nothing else with such an all-star line-up as last night's.

After an introduction by Barb Jungr, the evening got under way with a sizzling set from the acclaimed Kit Downes Trio, nominated for the 2010 Mercury Prize for their album Golden. Regular drummer James Maddren was subbed by the renowned Enzo Zirilli (also part of Sarah Gillespie's quartet), and altoist Michael Chillingworth appeared as a special guest with the trio.

Downes gave a dazzling performance especially of Monk material as well as some Gershwin, more than amply demonstrating why this young pianist is regarded as one of the biggest rising stars. Special guest Michael Chillingworth on alto sax, among others also a member of equally rising star bassist Gourlay's Calum Gourlay Quintet, also shone and is a very promising talent to look out for.

The trio - and later, Downes alone - stayed on to accompany stellar singer-songwriter Gwyneth Herbert. After an enchanting rendition of Porgy I Loves You from Gershwin's Porgy And Bess, Ms. Herbert also presented some of her excellent original material, exquisitely crafted melodies combined with equally exquisitely crafted lyrics. Presented with an exceptionally versatile voice and a huge dose of humour, with a slightly wicked whimsical sparkle in her eyes, with last night's performance Ms. Herbert proved herself a spellbinding storyteller of huge charm and charisma. It is very easy to see why she has been so hugely successful. Gwyneth Herbert's outstanding performance was just irresistible.

Accompanied by internationally renowned pianist, composer and musical director Simon Wallace - her regular accompanist - it was Barb Jungr's turn to grace the stage next. Considered Britain's foremost chansonnière and song stylist, Ms. Jungr is highly regarded as one of the leading interpreters of particularly Jacques Brel and Bob Dylan, and one of this country's finest interpreters of contemporary song generally. Last night Ms. Jungr gave a sterling performance that certainly provided an excellent taster of her great versatility that has taken her even to New York City's premier cabaret venue, the Cafe Carlisle.

The biggest star attraction among last night's all-star line-up of course was the incomparable and electrifying Sarah Gillespie and her all-star Sarah Gillespie Quartet featuring legend of modern jazz Gilad Atzmon, as well as one of the brightest of rising bass stars of his generation, Ben Bastin, and acclaimed drummer Enzo Zirilli.

With her usual mix of witty banter and high octane, high voltage performance, Ms. Gillespie turned up the heat in the Pizza to searing. Her mix of songs from both her previous album Stalking Juliet and the current In The Current Climate hit the spot, and given the context of last night's concert, her song How The Mighty Fall acquired great added poignancy. The blend of Ms. Gillespie's outstanding lyrics inspired and informed by surrealist/beat poetry, her strong, superbly crafted melodies and her exceptional, versatile and highly expressive voice and sheer breathtaking, singing stage presence, combined with her dexterous guitar and the sensitive and witty accompaniment of jazz maestro Gilad Atzmon and the superb rhythm section of Bastin and Zirilli made for not so much a merely most memorable performance but a most memorable experience indeed. On stage, Sarah Gillespie turns into a tiger and takes no prisoners!


Memorable 1980s 'Neasden Queen of Soul' Mari Wilson, long transformed into a versatile cabaret and musical theatre artist as well as chanteuse, next graced the stage with pianist Adrian York. Ms. Wilson's performance was another delight of this evening and highly memorable indeed.

After what seemed like a relatively short but highly enjoyable set, Mari Wilson was joined by Barb Jungr and Gwyneth Herbert for a taste of their joint Girl Talk act to conclude the evening. This proved another most enjoyable performance, with close harmonies and great style. Their brief set included a spirited yet sensitive and touching rendition of Dolly Parton's Jolene, and not being over-sentimental or melodramatic proved probably the finest interpretation of this song yet.

Last night was a most memorable evening indeed, bringing together such a wide range of performers of the highest calibre as one is rarely fortunate enough to see together in one evening. Musically, this was an unqualified success, and great kudos must go to the organisers for making it all happen. And financially, it also appears to have been successful for its good cause.

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