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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Manjula @ The Jazz Café – Nov.27

Vanessa Rani (vocals & percussion), Joe Harris (guitar), Simon Read (double bass) & Sam Bell (percussion).
(Review by Russell/Photos courtesy of Mike Tilley).
Leeds College of Music has cultivated many fine musicians. Many of them find their way to Newcastle to play a gig. At the Jazz Café a new voice captivated the audience. Vanessa Rani possesses a fabulous voice, she’s a natural talent. Working with Ms Rani in the band Manjula are three top notch musicians; percussionist (and reassuring presence) Sam Bell, bassist Simon Read (himself leading a band at a young age) and guitarist Joe Harris.
Rani began with a tune she liked – a tune by Jamiroquai. Quietly funky, quietly grooving, nothing wrong with that. The self-effacing Rani confided that the boys in the band were a little less impressed with the once-hip mega star! A good tune is a good tune – play it! An indisputably good tune – Nature Boy – worked well, Rani’s rich vocals swirling round an interesting intro, pitch perfect. Rani is a composer; My Forefathers and Brother explored her heritage, the latter number perhaps recalling Marvin Gaye and Gil Scott Heron.
Angelique Kidjo’s Malaika featured guitarist Joe Harris. Considered, fearlessly few notes, searching, getting there. Rani sat throughout two sets – as did Bell and Harris – with a set list atop of congas. With some trepidation the vocalist joined Bell as a percussion duo on Paper Pictures, another original number, about the shortcomings of Facebook. Rani did a more than decent job and later revealed that Sam Bell has encouraged her to learn to play the instrument. Another brace of originals, then Afro Blue. A highlight of the gig, without a doubt. Soaring vocals…no, make that effortless, soaring vocals, Rani – the vocalist and percussionist! – excelled, yet generously afforded solo space to Harris and Read ahead of a stupendous percussive coda. Huge applause, subsequently Sam Bell told us that earlier in the day Vanessa almost talked herself out of taking on the percussive part. Thankfully, she went for it. To finish, Rani sang Angola. Passionate, talented, Vanessa Rani is a star in the making! 
Russell.

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