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In the current climate we are doing our best to keep everyone up to date. All gigs, as we all know, are off.

However, good old YouTube has plenty to offer both old and new to help us survive whilst housebound. Plus now is a good time to stock up on your CDs.

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Alternatively, you could do as they do in Italy and sing from your balcony.

Today

As we all know there are no live gigs taking place in the immediate future. However, any links to jazz streaming that are deemed suitable - i.e. with a professional approach - will be considered for posting.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

CD Review: John Allee – Bardfly

John Allee (vocals, composer, arranger, additional lyrics); Mahesh Balasooriya (piano); Aaron Mclendon (drums); Dominic Thiroux (bass); Javier Vergara (saxophone); Matt Von Roderick (trumpet).
(Review by Ann Alex)

Is Lance favouring me with the most unusual, interesting CDs to review? I ask after listening to this latest humdinger by John Allee, veteran stage and TV actor and singer/songwriter from LA. We get 13 delightful tracks of songs from Shakespeare's plays, set to jazz, with some added lyrics by Allee, who adopts the persona of Feste the jester. The plays range from Othello to Henry IV to Hamlet and the music includes elements of blues, ballads, swing, and even hymns and spoken word.

I have a theory that jazz is especially suitable to accompany Shakespeare's work. I've heard it at many performances; the universal 'feel' sits well with the Bard's universal themes, and much of the music played in the time of Shakespeare was dance music anyway, their 'swing'. The CD begins with Allee speaking to us over a piano jazz groove, introducing the band and setting the scene. Then comes the calm, slow strains of Until the Break of Day, followed by Tomorrow Is St Valentine's Day, with suitably saucy-sounding comments from the trumpet.

Philomel/Hold Thy Peace (You Spotted Snakes) took me back to schooldays when I sang this, but this version is much more fun, done as swing with scat. Oh Mistress Mine is a song of seduction and the shortness of life, a common Shakespearian theme and Sigh No More is a sensitive ballad with a pleasing sax solo. The Hungry Lion is a sly creepy number about graveyards, with a final dissonant chord. Green Willow is gentle and sad and Full Fathom Five has a suitable 'under water' feel from the mellow instrumentation. Then comes the lively irony of Heigh Ho The Holly, and Allee brings out the meaning of the words skilfully ' most friendship is failing, most loving mere folly.' Come Away Death is slow with a bass solo, which is the right instrument to portray death (hope no bass players are offended). Then another death song Never Come Again, and a humorous song to finish, The Wind and the Rain, which outlines the stages of human life.

It goes without saying that the instrumentalists are well up to and beyond the mark. John Allee has performed in many Shakespeare plays, including Twelfth Night and he has also played in the Benjamin Britten musical version of A Midsummer Night's Dream. It is worth noting that the CD deserves careful listening to catch the full meaning of the lyrics, maybe hearing the album three times would hardly be enough. The CD has been available everywhere from October 11 on the Portuguese Knees Music label. See www.johnallee.com
Ann Alex

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