Newsreader proves he can hold a tune
Mara Carlyle with Jon Snow, Purcell Room, London
London Jazz Festival
Monday 12 November 2012
He may have impeccable taste, but Jon Snow’s decision to take the stage with the singularly talented Mara Carlyle ultimately proves more foolish than brave.
Having met her working at a homeless shelter he supports, Snow has enthusiastically boosted her stop-start career, though never envisaged this engagement. The cycling newsreader and the vocalist with eclectic taste are certainly the unlikeliest pair to open London Jazz Festival, the annual fortnight-long celebration of that underdog genre.
Not least because Carlyle is a somewhat leftfield choice herself, known for giving contemporary twists to an array of traditional vocal forms, anything from doo-wop to Elizabethan madrigals. Signed to EMI in 2007, her ensuing album was shelved until last year when she wrestled back the rights and self-released the beguiling Floreat. More recently, she was taken under the wing of Simon Fuller’s XIX Management (joining David Beckham and Annie Lennox), though that has yet to increase her fame.
Despite an unspecified illness limiting her range, Carlyle proves an inspired selection. While much of her material may be unfamiliar to jazz fans, she does bring a precise modulation that evokes those lauded vocalists Dinah Washington and Billie Holliday. Indeed, among her successes tonight is a warm take on Ella Fitzgerald’s version of Duke Ellington composition "I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)", all reverential, if smoky, sophistication, until she raises the intensity near its close.
A former Winchester Cathedral choirboy, the towering Snow proves he can hold a tune during his two-number cameo, though is overly tentative on the duo’s rendition of Gillian Welch’s "Dear Someone", missing the original’s old-time yearning quality. Carlyle, meanwhile, playfully flutters around his consistent baritone, regularly threatening to burst into giggles, having corpsed earlier. It is a turn best left for charity fundraisers. Snow is less awkward on Carlyle’s own "Sweet Spirit", his unadorned delivery a better fit with words purloined, she admits, from a 16 century prayer.
Throughout, a trio of double bass, piano and accordion provide minimal backing while lacking their own spark, until Carlyle tries some chanson with the accordionist at the close, but then she is always going to dominate the evening, with two contrasting highlights. She draws out the bruised nobility of a composition aptly by Henry Purcell, "Dido’s Lament", before the more visceral, both lyrically and emotionally, "Baby Bloodheart", where she manages to make a ukulele sound plangent, having already accompanied herself winningly on musical saw.
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
- 2 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 3 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
- 4 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
- 5 Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
Better Call Saul creator Peter Gould on the creative concerns of a prequel, season 2 and the mind-numbing realities of the small courts
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Doctor Who film will definitely happen, leaked Sony emails reveal
Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens trailer: Luke Skywalker's bionic hand sends fans into a frenzy
The Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer has leaked – watch
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
General Election 2015: Polish prince challenges Nigel Farage to a duel over immigration question