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Reviews/Cabaret/Fringe World Festival/Music

A wide-ranging delight

10 February 2021

David Zampatti enjoys a sample package of jazz singer Jessie Gordon’s many styles in a hidden treasure above the Hay Street Mall.

‘Jessie Gordon Presents’, Jessie Gordon ·
Moana Hall, 10 February, 2021 ·

When Perth was thrown into lockdown, so were the plans of Fringe World and its artists, none more so than the entrepreneurial jazz singer, Jessie Gordon.

Her home turf, The Ellington Jazz Club, was out of bounds for the duration (its crime was operating under a nightclub licence), rendering the two shows she had running in the last week of Fringe, Sassafras: A Gypsy Swing Soireé and Jessie Gordon Presents, desperately in need of a venue.

Undaunted, Gordon turned to Google Maps, put on sturdy walking shoes and went looking for an alternative venue – and boy, did she come up trumps! What she found, up two flights of stairs at the end of a decidedly unprepossessing old arcade where the Hay Street Mall peters out at Barrack Street, was Moana Hall.

The old gal has worn many skirts since it opened in 1908, and passed through many hands (including an art gallery from 2012-2018), but it’s retained quite a faded grandeur. Unless you’d been to a private function there it’s unlikely you, like me, would know it even existed. And it was a picture-perfect setting for Gordon’s picture-perfect performance.

Gordon’s a Jessie of all trades, and masterful at all of them, from the old and borrowed – “My Blue Heaven” (1927), “Has Anybody Seen My Girl?” (1925) and “Where or When?” (1937) – to something new, Billie Eilish’s “My Future”, and her own songs that hark back to her trad roots (“The Pastry Song”), showcase her adroit loop pedal assemblies (“Disappointing”), and feature her penchant for melodic, emotional ballads (“Torch and Stone”, “Leaving No Trace”).

Gordon is fortunate to have such a range of material; she’s also fortunate to be accompanied by the likes of Adrian Galante, whose exquisite clarinet was a recurring highlight of the evening, and her BFF, Mark Turner, on guitar.

For Gordon fans – and there were plenty in the house – this voyage to the four corners of her repertoire was an unmitigated delight, though anyone less familiar with her work might have found it too diverse to fully grasp. I’m also not sure Jacques Brel’s “Ne Me Quitte Pas”, masterpiece though it is, was an ideal closer for her.

Be that as it may, an evening in Jessie Gordon’s company is a reliable delight – and Moana, her brand-new, 112-year-old friend in need was a friend indeed. I look forward to seeing both of them again.

Jessie Gordon Presents’ is at Moana Hall until 10 February, Badlands Bar from 11 to 13 February, and, finally, back at Ellington’s on 14 February.

Pictured top: Jessie Gordon is accompanied by Adam Galante on clarinet and Mark Turner on guitar. Photo supplied.

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Author —
David Zampatti

David Zampatti has been a student politician, a band manager, the Freo Dockers’ events guy, a bar owner in California, The West Australian’s theatre critic and lots of other crazy stuff. He goes to every show he’s reviewing with the confident expectation it will be the best thing he’s ever seen.

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