A birthday gift for jazz club

5 March 2020

Ron Banks can’t find enough superlatives to describe Ali Bodycoat and Libby Hammer’s show for the Ellington Jazz Club’s 11th birthday.

Review: Ali Bodycoat and Libby Hammer ·
Ellington Jazz Club, 3 March 2020 ·
Review by Ron Banks ·

Bodycoat and Hammer … sounds like a panelbeater, or a couple of tradies from the Highway to Hell juggernaut. Not at all. Despite their non-jazzy monikers, Ali Bodycoat and Libby Hammer are quite possibly state treasures when it comes to archiving local jazz vocal talent.

It’s true that they’ve been around for a while, and perform regularly as a duo act, but their performance together at Ellington Jazz Club’s 11th birthday celebrations confirmed their status as Perth’s most sophisticated, most harmonious, most talented, most entertaining and most endearing jazz artists. That’s a lot of superlatives, but each is richly deserved. And their appearance with backing musicians Chris Foster (piano), Nick Abbey (acoustic bass) and Daniel Susnjar reinforced Ellington’s reputation as the place to go for WA’s best jazz.

That Ellington’s has been able to survive and indeed thrive for 11 years in the Beaufort Street building that was many years ago a Chinese laundry is testament to the visionary ambition of the sorely missed pianist, Graham Wood, who died two and half years ago in his early 40s. Wood founded the club with his business partner, Bernard Kong, who was at the club for its birthday bash, even venturing on stage to sing a pitch-perfect rendition of Hoagy Carmichael’s difficult but very lovely song, Stardust. Kong admitted that if it hadn’t been for Wood’s urging him on through singing lessons seven years ago, he would not have been on the stage.

But back to the main act, the vocal splendour of Hammer and Bodycoat, two delightful chanteuses (I feel the French word is appropriate, given their style and repartee), who presented the Great American Songbook in all its glory.

Most of the time they rearranged the numbers into duets, or took two completely different numbers and sang them separately over the same set of chords. Who else could sing both The Surrey with the Fringe on Top (Bodycoat) and Tea for Two (Hammer) at the same time and sound so outrageously perfect? It was a challenge for the listener to decide what side of the brain to use to hear the two songs simultaneously.

Then again, the duo’s creativity with a song knows few boundaries, and they delivered each one with impeccable harmonies and interpretative nuances. Between songs they could be mistaken for stand-up comedians, or are they just natural talkers with the gift of the gab? Probably the latter.

Bodycoat’s faux French patter with its precise pronunciation sounded like she had spent her life in the western suburbs (or was she just having a lark?) while Hammer’s manner was more earthy, establishing an easy rapport from the get-go with her witty asides.

As a birthday gift to the club, the duo’s talents were unwrapped with a warmth and arch sophistication, perfect both in pitch, tempo and style. They will be back together at Ellington’s in midwinter, so don’t miss out.

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Author —
Ron Banks

Ron Banks has reviewed the arts in WA for more years than he cares to remember. A former arts editor of The West Australian, he has reviewed performances in spaces from a dozen seats to super-stadiums. His only time on stage was as a spear-carrier in the opera Aida at Singapore’s sports stadium. His favourite playground equipment is the flying fox.

Past Articles

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