Come In Spinner: The Concert

ACF-Vince-Jones-photo-by-Creswick-CollectiveThe novel Come In Spinner (Dymphna Cusack and Florence James, 1951) is set in Sydney, towards the end of World War II. With local men serving abroad, local women enjoy greater independence, including in their love affairs.

The much-awarded ABC TV adaptation of 1990 brought the story, and its soundtrack, to national prominence. For one night only, an Adelaide Cabaret Festival audience were able to experience this memorable music with a 16-piece band.

Trumpeter and vocalist Vince Jones was there at the start of the TV project, and insisted on having choice of songs. His efforts, along with those of singer Grace Knight, contributed to double-platinum sales in Australia, making the album our highest selling Jazz release.

Come In Spinner: The Concert sees the now-legendary Jones return to his role, with female vocals supplied Nina Ferro (a revelation in the recent Melbourne season of Judy Australia 1964. Somewhat remarkably, Jones sounds much like he did in 1990, although he would keep us waiting for his trumpet. Ferro impressed with her power and control, adding her own colours and shades to proceedings.

For the uninitiated, the track listing puts I’ve Got You Under My Skin (Cole Porter) and The Man I Love (George and Ira Gershwin) amongst contributions involving other Jazz heavyweights like Dinah Washington and Duke Ellington. A packed Festival Theatre clearly showed the irresistible appeal of these songs of love and loss.

What a challenge though to put a fresh slant on the tunes whilst still respecting the nostalgia that helped fill the house. Here you have to tip your lid to Musical Director Matthew McMahon, and to Conductor Steve Newcombe for new arrangements which embellished our old favourites whilst retaining enough of the original feel.

Jones noted that his dad used to have a big band, before financial concerns around the 1960s led to ensembles shrinking in size. The modern indulgence of large brass section gave McMahon and Newcombe, lots of room to play.

Flirtations with dissonance, excursions, and discursions through the tunes could amplify the emotional states behind the lyrics. (It’s not so easy to distil this into linear prose, which might be why some of us love Jazz so much.)

The rhythm section (McMahon on Piano with Karl Dunnicliff’s Double Bass and Gordon Rytmeister on Drums) could be sublime or authoritative as a tune required. Highlights in horn solos were just too numerous to mention across the talented ensemble.

Listing to a hip group such as this one can have transformational effects. As your brain is bathed in sound, you can feel the music playing Tetris with your emotions as connections emerge, and new memories are made.

The evening concluded with an encore of Ferro and Jones’ own selections. Some may have wondered: Is it right that just one group of people would say, You Go To My Head” and the rest will have Mood Indigo?

On his departure from the stage, Jones noted that all involved enjoyed the show “…and we might do it again.” Was he foreshadowing a new Adelaide Big-Band Festival? Maybe not. So, festival programmers, Come In Spinner, and maybe some future audiences can also have a winning toss of the “two-up” coins.

(And if that doesn’t happen, at least Adelaide will have a return visit from Nina Ferro for the Guitar Festival in a few week’s time…)

Come In Spinner: The Concert
Festival Theatre – Adelaide Festival Centre, King William Road, Adelaide
Performance: Sunday 11 June 2023 – 5.00pm

Image: Vince Jones – photo by Creswick Collective

Review: Jason Whyte