Saturday, 25 October 2014

Bringing the Jacobean bang up to date

Sam Wanamaker Playhouse - photo credit Nick Gutteridge
Photo credit Nick Gutteridge
Jazz by Oak and Candlelight; Jacqui Dankworth, Brodsky Quartet; Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
Reviewed by Hilary Glover on Oct 19 2014
Star rating: 4.0

A treat of jazz, blues, folk, and pop in a Jacobean theatre

'Jazz by oak and candlelight', an evening of music performed by the Brodsky Quartet and Jacqui Dankworth in the beautiful setting of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, was a treat of jazz, blues, folk, and pop – all rescored for this versatile ensemble.

A Jacobean theatre is not the most obvious of places in which to stage a jazz evening but the Sam Wannamaker Playhouse is an intimate and atmospheric venue, lit by candles and subtle lighting with a glorious black and gold back to the stage. The quartet entered the stage through a central door as though entering a private room while Jacqui Dankworth arrived from the back of the pit, climbing onto the stage via some stairs on its front edge.

Jacqui Dankworth - photo credit: John Kentish
Jacqui Dankworth
photo credit: John Kentish
Although it only opened in January this year the playhouse has been long envisioned. The shell was built at the same time as the main theatre but, due to lack of funds, the interior had to wait. It is based on plans found in the 1960's at Worcester College, Oxford which originally were thought to have been drawn by the 17th century London architect Inigo Jones, but were later attributed to John Webb (Jones' sometime assistant). These plans were realised by Jon Greenfield into an award winning, authentic structure. Its first production was John Webster's 1612–13 tragedy 'The Duchess of Malfi' on the 15th January (see Robert's review of the play on this blog).

The Brodsky Quartet (Daniel Rowland, Ian Belton, Paul Cassidy, and Jacqueline Thomas) and Jacqui Dankworth have been working together for more than 15 years. Their first collaboration was as part of an education project for CoMA (Contemporary Music for All) working with teenagers. Two of the songs arising from this appeared on tonight's programme: 'Abyss' by Kate Curtiss and 'Happy Hat' by Victoria Parfitt.

For Jacqui this concert was also a family affair. Her parents Sir John Dankworth and the singer Dame Cleo Laine had been very involved in touring America to raise funds for the Globe project and some of the arrangements for the music performed tonight were written by her father, her brother Alec Dankworth, and her husband Charlie Wood. This included Alec Dankworth's arrangement of the Federico García Lorca poem 'Narciso', Jacqui's own 'Time takes it time' and 'Please Answer', and the instrumental 'Patience' by Charlie Wood, inspired by a poem Jacqui heard on the World Service when she could not sleep.

Brodsky Quartet - Photo credit: Eric Richmond
Brodsky Quartet
Photo credit: Eric Richmond
Jacqui's voice has great flexibility. From the spare and haunting folk of the opening number 'She moves through the Fair' (arranged by Paul Cassidy) to the final trip-hop 'Play Dead' (by Björk, Jah Wobble, and David Arnold arranged by the quartet) she approached each song afresh. Big band show tunes took over for 'Speak low', (Kurt Weill arranged John Dankworth) and the Frank Sinatra/ Hollywood String Quartet 'Close to You' (also arranged by the Quartet). But it was the blues number 'Sittin' On Top Of The World' by Walter Vinson and Lonnie Chatmon where her voice really shone out, making the most of her range and vocal possibilities.

The different styles of arrangements kept the quartet on their toes - but this was nothing that they could not handle: performing with their customary skill and sensitivity. The vocal cello duet 'Like someone in Love' by Jimmy van Heusen and Johnny Burke (arranged by Jacqueline Thomas) was a lovely encore.

Finally,a set of Shakespearean poems - 'Shall I compare thee', 'Go lovely Rose', and 'The Triple Fool' (set by Harvey Brough - otherwise known as Harvey from Harvey and the Wallbangers) were included as a nod to the Globe.

Along with the plays and education events, the Globe have planned a series of candlelit musical evenings running through the winter of which this 'Jazz by oak and candlelight' was one of many. The next concert will be 'Judith Weir: Master of the Queen's Music' on the 27th October which includes 'King Harald's Saga', 'Blue-Green Hill', and 'Psalm 148', along with music by Sir Henry Walford Davies, Sir Arthur Bliss, Edward Elgar, Malcolm Williamson, Arnold Bax, and Peter Maxwell Davies.

A quick note for those who might be worried – the playhouse is all seating, even in the pit – and unlike the Globe it is closed to the weather.

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