Sarah McKenzie, Australia-born singer, pianist, composer and arranger now living in Paris, took to the George Square Spiegeltent tonight on her first visit to the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival with an all star line up that included Geoff Gascoyne (bass), Sebastian de Krom (drums) and Hugo Lippi (Guitar) on a one night only stop over in Edinburgh as part of her current European tour.
This is my first introduction to the music of Sarah McKenzie and also one of those rare moments when you review a lot of music and shows…that moment when you just go “Wow”, and realise that someone very special has taken to the stage.
If you have not yet found Sarah McKenzie or her music then how best to describe both?...class and sophistication pretty much says it all. Sarah McKenzie is a highly gifted pianist, vocalist, songwriter and arranger not only steeped in the classic songs of the “Great American Songbook”, but adding new pages of her own words and music to that book itself. It was so easy to see from this 90 minute set why Sarah McKenzie is not only in demand at prestigious music festivals throughout the world, but attracting the best musicians, producers and arrangers to work with her. Watching Sarah McKenzie and the band on stage tonight was a bit like being taken back to sights and sounds of one of those endlessly cool and sophisticated classic Hollywood films of the 1950s…at any moment you expected someone like Cary Grant to walk across the front of the stage
Sarah McKenzie has a new album out this year, “Paris in The Rain”, her second with Impulse! Records, the first one being the 2015 “We Could Be Lovers”. “Close Your Eyes” and “Don’t Tempt Me” are two previous albums.
Music tonight was a mixture of songs from “Paris In The Rain” and previous albums, and stylish covers of standards with songs like “Paris in The Rain” and “One Jealous Moon” seamlessly fitting in with classics like “Moon River” (performed as a wonderful duet between Sarah and Hugo).
As well as classic and sophisticated jazz and Great American Songbook songs and sounds, we were also taken on more blues sounding roads at times and often a very Latin rhythm and feel to much of the music, and a lot of that feeling was down to the outstanding and wonderfully warm sounding and emotional guitar playing of Hugo Lippi, none more so than when playing their tribute to Brazilian music legend Antonio Carlos Jobim with “Triste”. Also in the set was a tribute to Jazz legend Betty Carter with “Tight”.
Sarah McKenzie is for me one of the highlights of this year’s Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, and when musicians of the quality of Geoff Gascoyne (bass), Sebastian de Krom (drums) and Hugo Lippi (guitar) are performing on stage too, something very special happens.
Review by Tom King