Jazz at the Movies featuring London-based jazz/blues/soul vocalist Kerry Jo Hodgkin at The jazz Bar in Chambers Street is the sister show this year at The Edinburgh Festival Fringe to her always popular “The Songs of Julie London”. The problem of course with a themed show like this is always going to be just where do you even start to pick the small selection of songs that you can fit into a Fringe show, as jazz in the movies is as old as sound in the movies. Kerry could easily play this show every day at The Fringe and never repeat a song, and that would probably only start to cover British and American movies without even touching European, Eastern European or Latin American movies. Also, finding music that can adapt to maybe a trio or quartet and what instruments they are playing has to be taken into consideration. Given the many variations possible here, Kerry has done a good job of selecting a very personal choice of music here from an eclectic range of styles and time periods.
Our show starts with an acapella rendition of “Lady Sings The Blues” from the soundtrack album of the same name starring Diana Ross…also the album that really started off a never ending interest in jazz music for Kerry. This unusual start to the show was either going to introduce the evening in style or kill the whole set stone dead as you have to be very good to get away with something like this at the Jazz Bar where so many great singers have performed over the years. The fact that I am writing a review of this show of course indicates that Kerry pulled this one off in style.
Kerry Jo Hodgkin has brought some impressive talent with her on stage too with Malcolm MacFarlane (guitar) and Kenny Ellis (Double Bass). Also nice to see here Kerry giving Tom Potter (drums), 2016 young drummer of the year, the opportunity to work with her and very experienced musicians of the quality of Malcolm and Kenny. The combined results of this trio and Kerry’s vocals on stage provided some interesting arrangements of some known and less well known classics as along the way we heard music from classics films including “High Society” and “Love Me or Leave Me” to more contemporary films like “When Harry Met Sally” and “The Colour Purple”.
When you have the vocal range and vocal ability of Kerry Jo Hodgkin, there is very little you cannot sing on-stage, and this set provided a fine showcase for those talents as we moved effortlessly through soulful melodies, classic blues and upbeat jazz numbers with impressive changes in keys and timing modulations. Kerry just has one of those voices that sort of melts all around you and all you have to do is just sit back and listen to it.
There was also an interesting little foray into the world of Disney movies. It is just so easy to forget that Disney movies have had some of the finest jazz music written by some of the very best jazz composers in the world in them over the years.
If I had to pick a favourite from this show though it would be the Jacques Brel classic "Ne me quitte pas" (If You Go Away). With apologies to the audience for her French, Kerry wisely stuck to the original, and far darker and more complex French lyrics here rather than the very different English language ones by Rod McKuen. Songs like this are about real people and real emotions, and when you can emote a song like Kerry can, you can get away with maybe not perfect French…it is all in the feel for the words and the music.
Review by Tom King