IT was still light outside the Big School Room at Sherborne School as Stacey Kent and her band took to the stage. But the mood was a little after midnight with Stacey’s smoky vocals, Jim Tomlinson’s sultry saxophone and a sophisticated mix of old favourites, bossa nova and new songs.
Stacey Kent is one of the world’s leading jazz singers, but she is far from the typical image of a diva, with big hair, flamboyant frocks and a tempestuous personality. A slight elfin figure with a pixie hair-cut, she has an engaging personality and a husky voice that is complemented by the moody sounds of her husband’s saxophone and their tight band, Graham Harvey on piano, Jeremy Brown on double bass and Josh Morrison on drums.
The Sherborne Abbey Festival date was part of a lengthy world tour following the release last October of her highly praised album, The Changing Lights. The new collection, including songs with lyrics by the Booker-prize winning novelist Kazuo Ishiguro (The Remains of the Day, etc), has a strong Latin American and Brazilian atmosphere, alongside new songs by Tomlinson.
The Sherborne set included requests from local fans, bossa nova numbers and songs from her new album and back catalogue.
Classic show songs included Bewitched Bothered and Bewildered from Rodgers and Hart’s Pal Joey and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Surrey With A Fringe on Top from Oklahoma!
One particularly poignant song is L’Etang (The Pond), a French song from the 1930s, and a direct link with her Russian-born grandfather who emigrated to the US via France, and wished he had stayed in France. He made up for his disappointment by teaching his granddaughter to speak French.
Stacey Kent is hard to categorise. She is a natural entertainer who establishes a rapport with the audience, chatting about everything from poetry to her family. She sells out the world’s leading jazz venues, such as Ronnie Scott’s club in London, but is equally happy on a small stage in a quiet country town. And she can make any song her own, across the jazz and show spectrum, while balancing comfortably on the cutting edge between chanson and art-song.
If you missed this concert, she is back in this area in the autumn, with a concert at the Regent Centre, Christchurch, on 7th November.