With the Royal nuptials registered and the fairy-tale Buck-House balcony kiss globally embraced, it’s time to escape to reality with Lizzy Parks Quintet romancing the throne with all that’s Nu Jazz, Blues n’ Soul and just a little bit of Funky doobie-do Rap/Skat retro. So, what makes Jazz different? That the musos wear Ray-Bans indoors at night-time? Applauding the obligatory instrumental solos? Or was its usp defined by Joey ‘the lips’ Fagin in The Commitments when he berated the sax player with, ‘What you were playing was not Soul. Soul solos are part of the song – they have corners. You were spiraling – that’s jazz!’ Or maybe we just agree with ‘Jazz Club’, Louis Balfour’s ephemeral reverence for all that’s, ‘cool and grrreat’.
This evening’s, admission free, two sets were part of the ‘Birmingham Jazz’ mission for ‘Entertaining, Educating and Embracing’, all worthy aspirations and handsomely met with a sizable cross-generational audience in awe of the sublime musicianship and the gifted, thoroughly engaging, relaxed and indisputably attractive Ms. Parks.
There was an eclectic cross-fusion of rhythmic styles from lounge lizard slow tempo, uber smooth blues and soulful ballads to scat/rap idiosyncratic modernism. ‘Who’s There?’ opened the set with a somewhat heavy-metal thunder flourish that rattled a few Earl Grey teacups but slinkily segued into a slow blues smolder with brooding band harmonies backing Ms.Parks’ enticing vocals.
Matt Ratcliffe may, arguably, have stolen the show with his keyboards emulating those archetypal 60s signature styles of Rhodes piano and the swirly, doppler-effect groove of a Hammond organ/ Leslie speaker combo. The suggestive, sensual mystique of ‘Shh, get it on’ was just one of Ms. Park’s apocryphal ballads relating the clandestine assignations of a woman in search of self-fulfiment. The smokey dialogue between Wayne Matthews’ acoustic guitar bass fed through some naughty effects pedals and Jim Bashford’s vice-tight economic drumming was complimented by Ratcliffe’s extended Rhodes effect solo – which I saw someone actually close-up photograph. Nice!
‘Lifelines’ was a bewitching, hypnotic number featuring guitarist, Tom Robins, delivering a bristling solo that met with great applause whilst ‘Wildflower’s’ up-tempo bubbling-brook optimism heard Ms. Parks set spines atingle with her sonorous vocal registers. Closing time came with ‘All That’s’ scat/rap railroad click-track rhythm punctuated by Wayne Matthew’s ramping the vamp with insistent, staccato, descending bass lines. Another head-spinning keyboard extemporisation and it’s a beguiling smile of thanks from Ms.Parks on behalf of the band. Which was reciprocated effusively.
Sadly, had to miss the second set because, during our interview (to follow) I complimented her on the invigorating, and hopefully provocative, cover version, of Sinatra’s ‘It Was A Very Good Year’. Catch it on her website. Hmm, nice!
First setlist: Who’s There, Caught Counting, Shh, get it on, Marching, Lifelines, Wildflower, All That, (Ode to Cecile).
Review – John Kennedy
Photos – Ian Dunn