Ms. Lisa Fischer and Grand Baton

MIJF19 Ms. Lisa Fischer with Grand BatonFestivals can throw up all sorts of wonderful surprises. At the Melbourne International Jazz Festival, Ms. Lisa Fischer and Grand Baton was a prime example.

We began the night with Audrey Powne (vocals, trumpet) fronting trio James Bowers (keys), Tim Curnick (bass) and Michael McNab (drums). Although some lyrics were obscured by Tracey Chapman-esque note-bending, theirs was a pleasantly easy-listening set.

The main act was something rather more diverse. Fischer has provided backing vocals for superstars from Luther Vandross to Beyoncé, but this night showed that she (with Musical Director and Arranger Jean Christophe Maillard) has plenty of her own ideas.

The act, also featuring Thierry Arpino on drums and percussion, and Aidan Carroll’s bass and backing vocals, was somewhat slanted towards interpretation of well-known pop songs. The (often thrilling) innovations meant that we could be some way along before recognising the original being reinvented before our ears.

For example, an introduction recalling whale song could morph into Message in a Bottle by The Police. The diversity of material took in Led Zeppelin’s Rock and Roll, detoured through Jazz standards like Fever with a Flamenco interlude, and blasted through a Rolling Stones track with attitude that Mick Jagger would have been proud of.

As the show took its twists and turns through genres, my guest and I would turn to each other and say something like “I love the Melbourne International Jazz/Opera/World Music Festival!”

We were treated to Fischer’s playful personality and dextrous vocal performance, ranging from low growls to high-pitched trills. The instrumentation, such as Maillard’s use of Sazbazz, changes from electric to acoustic bass, or the diversity of percussion, provided continuing novelty and excitement.

Somehow, after about an hour, the volume went up a notch and some of the expansive introductions lost their appeal. Might we have had too much of a good thing? Regardless, much of this offering was extremely memorable. No wonder Ms. Lisa Fischer and Grand Baton are favourites at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival.

Ms. Lisa Fischer and Grand Baton
Melbourne Recital Centre, Southbank Boulevard, Southbank
Performance: Wednesday 5 June 2019 – 7:30pm

Image: Ms. Lisa Fischer with Grand Baton (supplied)

Review: Jason Whyte