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Friday, December 09, 2016

Emma Fisk and James Birkett @ St Cuthberts Church, Shadforth, Durham - December 8.

Emma Fisk (violin), James Birkett (guitar).
(Review by Steve T)
This is the second Jazz concert I've been to here, courtesy of the Lawrence mother, Allison Fenton, also vicar of the parish. It coincided with a spectacular Christmas Tree Festival, the church lined with nineteen full-size trees decorated in various themes by an assortment of local organisations.
Emma and James are two-quarters of Gypsy Jazz outfit Hot Club du Nord and this duo is something of a spin-off, stepping back a generation presenting the music of  Eddie Lang and Joe Venuti which was so influential on Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli, highlighted by the ever charismatic Ms Fisk, who has taken on the role of Jazz historian and educator, setting the scene for each 'tune', observing that Sunshine was recorded the day before Django’s seventeenth [birthday].
This part of Jazz history is largely a mystery to me and I guess many others and I think this is the point and the purpose of the duo, so I'm probably the target audience. 
We also got a snippet of violin tuition introducing It's Only a Paper Moon, a piece which featured some scorching interplay between the two, as did Pardon me Pretty Baby with Emmas only plucking [pizzicato] of the evening bringing the first set spectacularly to a close.  
It being a church, and a Jazz gig (though I doubt if many are regulars at Jazz events), the sell-out audience was largely at the senior end so were more likely to recognise things like I Can't Give You Anything But Love and Lady be Good in amongst originals by a composer with a penchant for strange titles like Kicking the Cat and Black and Blue Bottom.
We were spoilt by a world premiere of Dr Birkett’s Eddie’s Lament, a beautiful tribute to an artist who, we learned. died in his early thirties.
Perhaps because we are less accustomed to hearing a single violin, you can see people falling in love with Emma’s playing, no more so than on the beautiful Someone to Watch Over Me, followed by a stroke of genius with Oh Christmas Tree, which we were told they rehearsed in the vestry. Surrounded by Christmas Trees it should have been a moment in It's a Wonderful Life or Miracle on Sherburn Roada reminder of how both music and Christmas can be magical.
Anybody who is familiar with them will know what I'm writing about and anybody who isn't should familiarise themselves at the earliest opportunity.
You can see James at Blaydon on the eighteenth, then both (with a pile of other stuff) at a charity bash at Caedmon Hall in Gateshead on the twentieth, and Hot Club du Nord at the Gala lunchtime session in Durham on the thirteenth of Jan and in March at the Caff.
Steve T.

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