22/01/2021 - 11:30

ARTS REVIEW - Ella & Louis!

22/01/2021 - 11:30

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Simone Craddock's production of Ella & Louis! is, in short, "incredible".

ARTS REVIEW - Ella & Louis!
Pianist Adrian Galante, left, with Simone Craddock and Adam Hall. Photo supplied

Ella & Louis!, Simone Craddock and Adam Hall, with Adrian Galante. The Ellington Jazz Club, 16 January, 2021.

I have a confession to make. I consider myself to know a lot of talent in Western Australia, yet here I was on a Saturday afternoon, in the ever-fabulous dimly-lit Ellington Jazz Club, watching three musicians I’d never heard before who were, in short, incredible!

Covering two of the greatest musicians in history means you need a certain degree of confidence in your performance: it can so easily be compared with the original artists’. However, Adrian Galante’s virtuosic piano introduction was extraordinary. Simone Craddock, back in Perth after 20 years performing in the UK, entered telling a soft story over Galante’s tinkling keys, setting the scene for the 1950s era of jazz diva Ella Fitzgerald and trumpeter and singer Louis Armstrong.

On cue, a jazz trumpet sounded from the back of the room, and Perth’s legendary band leader, a velvet-clad Adam Hall, made his entrance, engulfing us in music.

Craddock’s voice could not be more different from that of the idol whose music she was performing, yet she brought to Ella’s songs a tenderness, care and control that ensured lyrics and emotion were front and centre. In addition, her intonation was flawless. This was not a tribute, but homage.

By this point I was on the edge of my seat waiting for Hall to sing, and I got goosebumps the moment he did. He channelled his inner Louis – letting the rich dark notes with deep vowel sounds laconically ease out of him in that oh-so-lazy way for which Louis is famous. Hall’s rendition of Armstrong’s “A Foggy Day” was a highlight. Nothing was pushed, no phrase rushed, no lyric glossed over. The duet, “Cheek to Cheek” had many in the audience quietly singing along too – the energy and joy exuding from just one piano and two voices were exemplary. Craddock’s a capella “Ill Wind” was perfection.

The encore, “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” was the perfect finale, bringing together all the elements that had made this matinée performance such a delight: cheeky chemistry between singers, wonderful keyboard skills from Galante, nuanced trumpet playing from Hall, and a story that got us hooked before the song began.

Craddock is a master producer – she absolutely knows what elements are needed to ensure a performance’s success, but none more so than putting absolutely brilliant talent together on a stage to perform music of historic significance that everyone knows and loves.

There's just one more performance of Ella & Louis!, in the Government House Ballroom, 14 February.

Simone Craddock also presents Birth of the Blues, January 22-23, and Nina, Love Simone, January 27-31.

Seesaw Magazine publishes reviews, news and features about the WA arts scene.

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