Left – Ali Bodycoat and Libby Hammer. Photo – Tobey Black
It is really an unalloyed pleasure to spend an evening in a world class jazz club such as The Ellington. Cosy, perfect acoustics with excellent bar and table service. When the entertainment is also of an international standard one begins to feel not a little proud of the way Perth has developed over the last few years. Superb vocalists and long-time friends, Ali Bodycoat and Libby Hammer teamed up to present a lovely songbook of Gershwin co-compositions.
Of course what sets the show apart from the expected parade of Gershwin ballads is the clever interspersing of interesting biographical snippets and some rarely heard pieces from their early collaborative years. Another delicious feature was the use of the often unknown sung “introductions” to these show numbers.
A diverting moment was when a lady audience member volunteered the information that the band members were “hot”! Well they were actually! Chris Foster, Nick Abbey and Michael Perkins were suavely handsome in their suits and what is more were each superlative with tight rhythmic timing as well as startlingly good solo work.
Chris Foster on piano skipped and shimmied through delightful variations on themes in almost every number. Nick Abbey is a virtuoso jazz bassist and the smilingly handsome Michael Perkins on drums demonstrated admirably what a pleasure it is to be part of a top notch ensemble at work and play.
The huge range and variety of the Gershwins’ body of work was amazing. Hearing Kim Anning’s haunting bluesy duet treatment of My Man's Gone Now and the slightly slurred comic gem Vodka could not have demonstrated this further.
There were far too many highlights to list here but Ali Bodycoat channelling Judy Garland in the beautifully, bitter The Man That Got Away was thrilling.
The ensemble work and solos in Hammer’s But Not For Me, were in a word, memorable.
Libby Hammer showcased her writing skills par excellence in her skilful arrangements of Gershwin “mash ups”; brilliant mingling two and up to four Gershwin numbers sung in clever counterpoint to each other and with amazing syncopation detail.
Speaking of arrangements the ensemble work for the finales and song closures were outstanding; subtle, innovative and utterly satisfying.
At the time of filing this review there was standing room tickets at the bar only available for purchase for the second show on Saturday 26 September 2015.
Ladies Be Good: A Tribute To George and Ira Gershwin
Ali Bodycoat and Libby Hammer
Venue: Ellington Jazz Club | 191 Beaufort St, Perth
Dates: 24 – 26 September, 2015