Performance Review

Ian & Guy Barker, Capital Jazz Festival

Sunday Telegraph

Ian Hewett, 30th September 2007

Once again, the Capital Jazz Festival has been drawing London's jazz aficionados to the Museum of Garden History, a tall and beautiful deconsecrated English Perpendicular church. What a pleasure it is to hear jazz in a venue where there isn't a low ceiling that seems to press down on one's head, there are no red or green lights to make the musicians look like refugees from a Ridley Scott film, and the sound has room to breathe.

On the penultimate night of the festival, we were treated to two singers who could hardly have been more different.

Christine Tobin is a raven-haired singer who spins attractively melancholy ballads about love and loss, in a voice that goes straight to the emotional heart of the song. She has a nice way of changing tone and tempo within a song to evoke a memory of a happier time, and she was able to sing about a 10-year-old's fantasy world without sounding twee. She was accompanied by guitarist Phil Robson, who was deft and unobtrusive while suggesting that he was drum, bass guitar and harmony all in one - no mean feat.

Then it was time for the fun part of the evening, with Ian Shaw and Guy Barker's whistle-stop tour through songs in the movies. Out went quiet, musing introspection, in came show-stopping high notes and flashy pyrotechnics, interspersed with lots of banter and anorak's film talk.

The virtuosity that has twice won Ian Shaw the title of BBC Jazz Vocalist of the year was on exuberant display. Every song conjured forth a new colour, from the up-tempo casualness of Sit Down You're Rockin' the Boat to the sultriness of Quincy Jones's In the Heat of the Night.

It takes chutzpah to take on this number, which Ray Charles made so much his own. Shaw has plenty of this, mixed with eye-rolling campery. He thrums lasciviously at the juicy piano chords, and makes a line like "If I were a gate, I'd be swinging" full of lip-smacking naughtiness.

Meanwhile, Barker's trumpet adds a louche and sultry commentary. Some of the songs they chose didn't make good vehicles for improvisation, so after one verse and chorus there was nothing much to do but end on yet another high note.

This made for a somewhat bitty feeling. But it was only a small blot on what was otherwise a wonderful trip through some half-remembered gems.