Vince Jones saunters on stage with The Vince Jones Band which includes a drummer, bass player and pianist. All appear unhurried and casual, but then why wouldn’t they be, after all, Jones is a class act. But this doesn’t show in the first five minutes. There are brief asides to the audience – social and even personal and these observations are interrupted by curiously sung fragments, then more chat, then a bite of scat as if Jones is tuning up, as if his wry asides breaking into and out of vocal warm ups are integral to his act.
He takes the time to coax his voice into gear and while he chats, Matt McMahon vamps on the piano dancing around cool chord structures, creating lovely tone, harmonic breadth, stylishly dressing the key and enveloping Jones within it. Jones sings with his arms around his back and his moves reveal his superb instinct for timing, in how he accents tuneful and harmonic rhythm. His body is an instrument, an extension of himself, as an accomplished, seasoned, charismatic conduit of jazz.
There’s a sense of real sharing on stage, no clashing egos, just sublime music making by some of the best in the business, including the solid, inspirational and cheeky bass of Ben Robertson. McMahon serves up sublime piano and Simon Barker the brilliant drummer is of the less is more league and never overplays his hand or drifts into showy for showy’s sake. His contributions are relevant, reflective and reach out and retreat with flair.
Talking jags between items on a playlist can pall, but Jones’ humour is on the money and of the slow burn school and with droll observation, clipped anecdotes carefully contained on the side of good judgment and he never presses the schmaltz button or breaks the easy vibe. And the steady stream of jazz inflected with funk, gospel, blues and reggae, is seamless and leads the audience into a zone of attentive listening.
As a performer, Jones has the skill and persuasion to make his audience enjoy each and every one of his playlist songs. Jones’ take of the Doris Day classic, ‘Secret Love’ improved the song for this reviewer, dressed and framed as it was with stunning melodic and rhythmical transfiguration. McMahon prepared and played the piano as a zither in the introductory phrases and alternated the effect of these tongue-in-cheek, rippled chords bordering on cheesy with elegant liquid piano and masses of drive.
In his sixties, Jones doesn’t hold back the years, or flinch at risks and maximizes the best his voice can offer, making it coil around lyrics, land on offbeat accents for theatrical effect, conspiratorially purr or soar. Jones doesn’t baulk at misdirected note placement, but turns defect into advantage, making his voice travel far and wide across registers, sometimes a string of pearly tones circling a powerful word before coming in for the kill. And Jones often glides into luxurious unself-conscious scat or trumpet soloing which melds superbly with the band.
After interval, Jones’ voice is truly on song, there’s great clarity and an infectious energy and force. Highlights of this entertaining presentation, which passed all too quickly, were many, including a seductively grooved – ‘Wonderment,’ a funky ‘Winter in America,’ ‘The Budgie,’ ‘The Ballerina’ and the deliciously ironic, ‘The Trouble With Me Is You.’
Brisbane Powerhouse presents
Venue: Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre
Date: 24 June 2016
Bookings: 07 3358 8600 | brisbanepowerhouse.org
Gillian is a music and arts journalist and the author of Elvis and Me: How a world-weary musician and a broken racehorse rescued each other, Finch Publishing, 1 August, 2015.