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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Babelfish @ The Jazz Café, Newcastle – Sept. 20

Brigitte Beraha (vocals); Barry Green (piano); Chris Laurence (bass); Paul Clarvis (drums)
(Review by Steve H/Photos courtesy of Ken Drew). 
A rainy night in Newcastle was brightened up considerably by my attendance at this rather charming gig. Brigitte Beraha is a very versatile singer with a wide range of styles ranging from free improvisation to more conventional straight-ahead singing.
The Babelfish project casts her more in the latter genre but there was still plenty of room left to improvise and use her voice as an additional instrument rather just a reproducer of lyrics. Being multilingual we were also treated to songs in both Italian and Spanish.
Babelfish’s repertoire consists of original compositions from co-band founder Barry Green and Beraha herself as well as standards such as Chasing Rainbows (the title of their second album). During the interval, I discussed with another member of the audience as to how I wasn’t keen on the mix of folk and jazz. Lo and behold, the second set featured a version of Benjamin Britten’s adaptation of the folk song The Stream in the Valley, which did nothing to change my opinion that jazz and folk go together like Marmite and candyfloss.
Several of the self-penned tunes were related to poems and novels such as Hobi, a character in the Donna Tart novel The Goldfinch, and It May Not Always Be So - an E.E Cummings love poem.  
Contents aside the most enthralling part of the evening was the way the band jelled so effortlessly with one and other. Paul Clarvis is a wonderful sympathetic percussionist and the playing of veteran bass player Chris Laurence was worth the price of admission alone. Beautiful and subtle with a gorgeous tone made even more impressive by the fact that the instrument he was playing was his ‘travelling’ double bass. The spike had the unfortunate habit of collapsing every so often.
A richly deserved encore was called for and appropriately the band played their eponymous tune Babelfish to close the evening. Sadly, there were no rainbows to chase on the way home as the rain came pouring down but the quality of the evening more than compensated for my unwanted soaking.
Ken Drew's photo album.
Steve H.

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