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Monday, March 26, 2012

Gateshead International Jazz Festival Saturday March 24th Life Is for Living: The Peggy Lee Project Gwyneth Herbert and The Buck Clayton Legacy Band

Gwyneth Herbert (vcl); Alan Barnes, Matthias Seuffert (reeds); Menno Daams, Ian Smith (tpts); Adrian Fry (tmb); Martin Litton (pno); Martin Wheatley (gtr); Alyn Shipton (bs); Bobby Worth (dms) 
Photo courtesy of Sage, Gateshead.
The three tiers of Hall 2 were full for this very entertaining event which was suitable for all Peggy Lee fans, and others who like to hear popular songs, well sung. There was even a pre-concert talk, in which Gwyneth Herbert and bassist/broadcaster  Alyn Shipton, told us about the project, including a film clip of Peggy Lee with Judy Garland. The whole event was presided over by a large projected photograph of the good-looking lady herself, sitting with a pile of her own vinyl. I suspect Ms Lee would have been amused by all this.
Gwyneth Herbert was dressed for the occasion in a neat blue dress with white spots and trimmings (not as pictured), which was in the 1940’s style, so I’m told by Lance (fashion expert). During the talk, Ms Herbert had emphasised how Peggy Lee used to sing the lyrics to truly express the meaning, and yet managed to make the song her own. I think Ms Herbert also achieved this end, by celebrating the songs, without trying to sound like Peggy Lee herself.
The Buck Clayton Legacy Band kicked off with a stirring tune - The Bowery Bunch - then came The Black Sheep Blues, with effective solos from the rhythm section. Ms Herbert entered, doing a fast-paced Ridin’ High and an amusing I Lost My Sugar in Salt Lake City. Other songs included What’s New, (Originally recorded in 1956) with a well played trumpet solo; Peggy Lee’s first hit from the 1940’s, Why Don’t You Do Right?, which was a chance for Alan Barnes to recreate the Benny Goodman role. 
The songs were those from the 1940’s, 50’s and early 60’s. I would have loved to hear the classics that everyone knows, such as Till There Was You, and The Folks Who Live on the Hill, but those songs perhaps wouldn’t quite fit into the project's aims. We had Blues in the Night, and of course Fever, which is a hard act to follow, after Ms Lee’s version. Ms Herbert did well on the amusingly cynical cabaret type song Is That All There Is? a good version of Life is for Living, and the performance ended with an encore of It’s Been a Long, Long Time.
The band did their stuff really well, with many short solos during the instrumentals, especially on Sir Humphrey, A tune by Buck Clayton written in tribute to "Sir" Humphrey Lyttelton. The whole event was thoroughly enjoyable, and also educational for people interested in singing jazz.
Ann Alex.
(Photo by James Pfapp.)

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