Sophie Smith visited Jazznights and following the quotes below we were looking forward to a great evening:
“Sophie Smith has all the attributes associated with being that rarity, a great singer. They are: superb intonation, beautiful quality of voice and an ability to pitch the most difficult of intervals with apparent ease. However, it is her peerless sense of swing, her phrasing and her harmonic awareness that move her into the category of a great jazz singer- an even rarer breed.” (Alan Barnes, 2009)
“Her fluent and lyrical singing displays a musical maturity beyond her years.” (Anita Wardell
This turned out to be the understatement of the year it was really superb evening – more about that later.
The Roger Odell Jazznights trio opened the evening with 5 excellent vocals from the resident songbird Larraine Odell. The trio were:
Roger Odell – drums
Roger was one of the founder members and drummer with the jazz-funk group Shakatak. Roger has toured internationally and recorded numerous CDs, which he continues to do on a regular basis to this day.
Simon Brown – piano
A very respected and popular jazz pianist who is equally known for his arranging skills. He is always in demand to play many gigs with other bands when he is not teaching jazz piano or playing with the Jazznights Trio
Bernie Hodgkins – double bass
Inspired by an uncle, who played and recorded with Django Reinhart and Stephane Grappelli in the legendary Quintet de Hot Club of France, Bernie grew up in a Jazz-oriented family. Their influence led him to become a respected bass player behind such people as Matt Munroe, Dickie Valentine and Dennis Lotus, in the early stages of his career. Bernie is particularly acknowledged as being one of the few players to bring an authentic, driving jazz feel to both the double bass and the bass-guitar, and for his fluent and creative soloing.
Larraine Odell – vocals
Beginning her professional singing career with the group CMU with whom she recorded two albums, Larraine performed at numerous venues throughout the UK and Europe, including the Purcell Room, RFH, Boxford Fleece & Ronnie Scotts. Larraine possesses a unique smouldering tonal quality and a subtle jazz phrasing style that has elicited great praise from two of her own vocal mentors, Mark Murphy and Sheila Jordan.
Larraine opened her set with Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s 1939 I Didn’t Know What Time It Was – for historians this Rodgers and Hart song was introduced by Benny Goodman, with vocalist Louise Tobin, on the Columbia label on September 13, 1939. It entered the charts on October 28, lasting for 13 weeks and peaking at sixth position. On December 23, Jimmy Dorsey & His Orchestra’s version hit the charts for 2 weeks and rose to thirteenth position. This was sung at a medium tempo with a solo from Simon Brown.
A personal favourite came next On Green Dolphin Street with lyrics by Ned Washington. This was played and sung by Larraine at an unusually slow tempo which illustrates her flexibility and great styling. One may think of Davis, of Bill Evans with Davis performing On Green Dolphin Street but Simon on piano gave a superb solo to which Bernie followed on bass. Day by Day came next (not the Shakatak version I must say) A very nice version featuring 8 bar trades between Roger and Bernie.
The fourth number was Wild Is The Wind by Ned Washington. This was originally recorded by Johnny Mathis but he did not sing it like Larraine who gave a very tender but haunting feel to it. This was in keeping as it was 31st October – Halloween. Just to finish the set retaining the Halloween theme we had Old Devil Moon. A fitting climax with a driving beat from Roger on drums. All these numbers were arranged by Roger Odell which should give a fitting reminder to how great an arranger Roger is.
Sophie Smith opened her first set with a driving Love Me Or Leave Me which was such a contrast from Doris Day’s original version. This received great cheers following everyone’s recognition of what a great voice, diction individuality and power Sophie had. Sophie followed this with It Could Happen To You by Jimmy Van Heusen & Johnny Burke. This is the title track from Sophie’s new CD on Alan Barnes record label – Woodville records. A wonderful number which included some of Sophie’s scat singing and featured solos from Simon, Bernie and Roger on drums.
The 1949 My Foolish Heart by Victor young and lyrics by Ned Washington followed was played with a Latin beat which had a lovely musical but strong rendition. The evergreen (sic) 1947 Autumn leaves by by Joseph Kosma with lyrics by Johnny Mercer and Jacques Prevert ended Sophia’s first set which was an unusually (for that song) swinging version. Sophie apologised for her voice as she had a cold but no one would ever know – what a professional she is.
After the evening interval and the Jazznights raffle (two jazz cd’s and a bottle of wine) we had the traditional sitting in spot which is open to all musicians who have an opportunity to play with the Jazznights Trio. Tonight, one of the club’s favourites Geoff Harriman on Harmonica played Jimmy Van Heusen’s Nancy (with the Laughing Face)
Jerome Kern and Johnny Mercer’s I’m Old Fashioned opened Sophie’s second set with an Introduction by Simon Brown on Piano leading straight into Sophie’s first number which also featured solos by Simon and Bernie on his five stringed double bass. Jimmy Rowle’s famous tune ‘The Peacocks’ for which Norma Winstone wrote the lyrics, and re-titled ‘A Timeless Place’ followed. Although this piece has since been recorded by other artists including jazz singer Mark Murphy, and The Swingle Singers it is not often heard due to the vocal complexities – quite a tribute to Sophie Smith.
The 1946 Come Rain Or Come Shine with music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by Johnny Mercer followed with a scat singing intro of this up-tempo number and solos by Simon & Bernie with a fine scat chorus to finish. Ray Noble’s 1936 The Touch Of Your Lips was next. played and sung as a Samba with Roger opening the rhythm playing with his hands instead of the sticks or brushes. Roger also gave us a superb solo using the brushes as drum sticks.
Sophie’s favourite ballad is apparently Johnny Green’s Body and Soul – words almost failed us after listening this – it was breath-taking and even out shone all the other previous numbers. After a very slow intro it moved into a very sensitive and soulful piece. Every one should hear Sophie singing Body and Soul. You felt nothing could better this. After saying that Cole Porter’s You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To in E minor was a very up-tempo number with a happy feel to Sophie’s voice which expressed fully the sentiment of the tune. She is a truly great jazz singer. This number is also featured on her new Album and in fact is the title of the album.
Tenor saxophonist Wardell Gray’s Twisted with lyrics by Annie Ross (I think) played up-tempo ended this wonderful evening. It also featured Simon and Bernie playing with that understanding that they have between them and an extended solo by Roger on the drums.
The evening was summed up perfectly by our master of ceremonies Donald Muir who said “One of the best performances at the club for a long time” Follow that
For further Jazznights information and future gigs go to www.jazz-nights.com