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Bebop Spoken There

Brian Dee: "I feel my generation had one advantage over today's players in that we were not musically educated in colleges, so we all sounded different. I could tell who it was just by the sound." - (Jazz Rag, Summer 2020).

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Vieux Carre Hot 4 - Spanish City, Spanish City Plaza, Whitley Bay NE26 1BG. Tel: 0191 691 7090. 12 noon. Free.

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Vieux Carre Jazzmen - The Holystone, Whitley Road, North Tyneside NE27 0DA. 0191 266 6173. 1:00pm. Free.

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Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Nishla Smith & Tom Harris @ The Lubetkin Theatre, Peterlee - October 2

Nishla Smith (vocals); Tom Harris (piano)
(Review by Russell)

In August 2018 Nishla Smith sang at the old Jazz Café jam session. As BSH's editor-in-chief LL recorded at the time, the Australian-born, Manchester-resident vocalist silenced the room as she gave a spellbinding reading of Don't Explain. A gig in the Black Swan earlier this year followed and today Smith made the trip across the Pennines to perform at the Lubetkin Theatre in Peterlee.

Jazz at the Lubetkin is a monthly, Wednesday lunchtime, concert series promoted by musician/educator Emma Fisk at East Durham College. An audience of jazz diehards and college students gathered for a one o'clock start. Smith walked onto stage with pianist Tom Harris to present a one hour set of original compositions and a few jazz standards. 

Very much alone together, the duo succeeded in establishing an intimate atmosphere in a darkened auditorium. A brace of original compositions for openers; Friends with Monsters and Blue Dream revealed a quirky songwriting talent; simplicity of lyric, space to breathe (literally!), a wistful fragility. Ms Smith likes Billie Holiday - Jim, a lesser known song from the legendary performer's songbook, found pianist Harris in playful Monkian mood and, as the set developed, it became apparent Smith's musical partner has a distinctive approach irrespective of his primary function as accompanist. 

Don't Explain sang Smith (it was worth making the trip to Peterlee!), Mean to Me, familiar material given a new treatment, not quite what one might expect and all the better for it. The Lark (comp. N Smith), Tea for Two (one of Harris' favourite numbers) with, not for the first time, much space. The duo seemed to revel in being so exposed - slow tempo, a considered pause, challenging themselves to negotiate/avoid the obstacles ahead. 

Corcovado featured Harris, a fine soloist in his own right. As the hour-long concert drew to a close Ms Smith suggested an up-tempo, happy finale. Smith left us with another original composition titled Up. It had been an intriguing hour, the next time Nishla Smith is in town go check her out. 

Russell            

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