Tina May & Enrico Pieranunzi, piano
With Neil Campbell, guitar & Perri Allyne-Hughes
The Capstone Theatre
7th October 2016
Reviewed by Joe Coventry
Death By Chocolate
Outside the venue autumn leaves were beginning to fill the Japanese Garden water feature and inside an expectant crowd had filtered in for an evening of smooth jazz standards and the showcasing of new tracks, in this two part concert. The theme for the evening would be songs of love or rejection.
Neal and Perri, on stage first, appropriately started their set with Autumn Leaves. As the smoke drifted across the star studded stage backdrop the couple segued into Sunday Song, a heart and soul search for bliss; he effortlessly supplying the silky fretwork, she tacking headstrong into the lyrics.
Joni Mitchell’s Blue belied it’s title but in Last Time I Saw Richard a happy ending falters for the sake of a dishwasher and a coffee percolator.
It was all good wholesome stuff from the local favourites who captured the heartache and loss of a boyfriend in Breathe, the guitarist empathizing with the emotional strain, the voice choking back despair and angst.
Billy Holiday’s You Go To My Head lacked only an alcohol infused and smoke filled room to resonate in, while Jacques Brel’s If You Go Away, doleful and sonorous in turns, was echoed in the sensuality and passion of the lyrics and guitar.
In the final song, Then, Neil innovated with some freestyle finger technique, Perri with her tonsils.
After the interval and also fusing classical technique with jazz, was accomplished Italian pianist Enrico Pieranunzi, who dressed down for the occasion, not trying to detract from the stunning stage presence of Tina May, as they came to Liverpool from Scotland to perform songs from their Home Is Where The Heart Is compilation.
Tina started with some tittle-tattle before Duke Ellington’s Caravan was on its way and they were soon extemporising freely in the luxury of the crystal clear venue’s acoustics. Scat, (vocalising without using words), eg da, do, da, woo, waw, woo, is not to everyone’s taste. At times it can become a bit cloying but in Tina May’s case there were other mitigating factors that carried the night’s performance.
Her vitality and vibrancy was balanced by the straight-backed immobility of Pieranunzi who let his fingers do all the talking, effortlessly filling the space of his own solos. In Billy Strayhorn’s Day Dream his left hand controlled the melodic flow, while his right innovated at will.
This Is New was a bit of edgy Kurt Weill/Ira Gershwin cabaret followed by the lugubrious September Song; langourous young love, all red wine and shag pile carpets. Precious days, that will have to end.
The magic continued with the masks, reveries and liaisons of Venice in Carnivale, but not with a happy ending. On it went, with My Funny Valentine, a mesmerising vehicle for an able mellifluous, deeper, range of the voice, while the lyricism of the piano was understated but never secondary.
Pieranunzi is a long time collaborator with jazz legend Chet Baker, and May is not far behind him in the world popularity stakes. Tonight, it was her words to Nightbird, that enjoined all three with a dream- like quality.
It was getting late but still it went on with a cover of Billy Holiday’s You’ve Changed; the melancholy of rejection expressed in the upper reaches of the voice while the piano wistfully improvised to no avail.
It could not end there. They ended by taking The “A” Train to Sugarville in Harlem, and there were no dissenters to that happy conclusion.