Jazz Undercover 70s Songwriters at The Jazz Bar is a new show this year at The Fringe from a singer that I always try to catch up with, London-based jazz/blues/soul vocalist Kerry-Jo Hodgkin. This show is a little bit of a personal detour into some of her own favourite songs and songwriters for Kerry-Jo, and some of the choices in the set list may not be what many people would immediately connect to as “jazz songs”, but with skilful arrangements and of course a vocal range that allows her to sing anything that she wants, Kerry-Jo gives the unexpected a Jazz (and when needed a samba) flavoured musical twist.
The 1970s really was the decade when many of the great singer songwriters came into their own musical spotlights, sometimes after writing songs for many other artists and publishing companies in the 1960s, and here, Kerry-Jo focuses on some of these now household names – Carole King, Kris Kristofferson, Randy Newman, Tom Waits, Bobby Gentry and Joni Mitchell are on the set list. The 1970s was at times an odd period in music and it is sometimes forgotten that artists like Sting and Ricky Lee Jones were also writing great songs towards the end of the decade, and a jazz version of “Roxanne” gives the song a new feel to it. Similarly a very blues sounding rendition of “Blue Valentine” from Tom Waits is not only interesting, but gives Kerry-Jo the opportunity to give it a very warm vocal feeling.
By necessity, some songs here are slightly outside of the 1970s, but this is Kerry-Jo’s selection and that is her choice. To be honest, not being that strict on a time- frame for the selection of these songs does not bother me at all as musically the end years of one decade and the start of a new one always seem to over-lap in styles. What is important here is the quality of the songwriting. Here, many American writers were starting to write songs in a far darker shade than the often far lighter “Great American Songbook”. Here for the first time in any real depth, the stories in these songs were beginning to be of a quality that singers like Edith Piaf had performed decades earlier with “chansons Française”.
This is as I have said a new show, so I am not going to give any more of Kerry-Jo’s set list away and spoil the show for you, but there are some real surprises here, and more than a song or two that I either did not know at all, or know a particular artist had recorded.
If you want to take a visit to songs of one of the great performers of Jazz, and so often forgotten, one of the great songwriters of Jazz, then Kerry-Jo also has a new Peggy Lee show at this year’s Fringe.
Adding much to the sounds and atmosphere of this show (and no dount the Peggy Lee one too), the always warm and expressive guitar skills of Malcolm MacFarlane.
Jazz Undercover 70s Songwriters
The Jazz Bar
Country: United Kingdom - England
Group: Hodgkin and MacFarlane
Review by Tom King