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Monday, October 07, 2019

Newcastle Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music: Francine Luce Sings with Andy Champion @ The Black Swan - Oct. 5

(Review by Dave Clarke/Photos courtesy of Ken Drew)
Eighteenth months of preparation went into this performance which will be repeated at Marsden Festival on Saturday October 12, so if you missed it here, and you’re heading for the festival I do recommend that you take a look at this new Northern duo, formed as a result of Francine Luce’s move from London to North Yorkshire.
The duo is new but they both bring a wealth of experience to the partnership. Andy is of course well known in the North East and beyond, not least for his oh-so-sensitive accompaniment of his brilliant vocalist wife Zoë  Gilby in their globe-trotting duo gigs.

Originally from Martinique, Francine’s CV is packed with work alongside the cream of the London jazz and improv scenes, as she told us in a half-spoken, half sung introduction to her set, backed by Andy’s beautiful and thoughtful accompaniment.
As you would expect from two such artists their set contained a considerable amount of improvised music  though none ever departed too far from its melodic roots and the other half of their set was song-based, including in French, presumably from the pen of Ms Luce.
Francine’s singing style swung between light-hearted and dramatic and had the audience in the palm of her hand, though she was probably less successful than she would have liked in encouraging us to join in with one song. On that number she did however, succeed in getting Andy to exercise his vocal cords. It seems to be quite the done thing of late for our local instrumental virtuosi to switch to voice.
What made Ms Luce’s performance particularly special was the way she matched her singing with  movement  both on stage and off as she danced out and through the audience. The last time I saw her in Newcastle in a jazz context she was accompanied by three double bass players. I won’t say Andy covered for all three but he came close, including a very long arco solo which was so good that his partner couldn’t resist joining in at the end.
This was the fourth Newcastle Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music event which I had attended since Thursday evening. They were all different and all great. Well done to Wes Stephenson and his team!
Dave C
PS: Circumstances decreed I missed the earlier set by Bradley Johnston and the later one by In Other Words - I'm told both sets were excellent.

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