Review: Grace Knight: ‘The First 40 Years’ ⋅
Ellington’s Jazz Club August 31 ⋅
Review: Ron Banks ⋅
There is a world of experience behind the sparkling eyes of jazz singer Grace Knight. Firstly there is the early experience in the pop world as the lead singer of Perth-based group Eurogliders, whose career took them to international hits and four successful albums. That career was followed by three decades as a jazz singer for Knight, who perhaps can be said to be in the latter stages of her remarkable career.
But she’s not washed up at all, I hasten to add. As well as playing jazz club gigs, Knight teams up with her old Eurogliders companions for the occasional tour back into the world of pop. And she’s about to team up again with her old mate jazz and soul singer Wendy Matthews for more gigs together.
On the evidence of her performance at Ellington’s, the English-born, Melbourne-based singer has much to offer audiences in terms of impeccable jazz timing and phrasing, and a fun approach to life in the spotlight. She ventured back into pop on occasions, with songs such as the massive hit Heaven from her Eurogliders days.
Her musical journey through jazz, pop and even Irish folk was enhanced by her Ellington trio – the incomparable guitar playing of Sam Lemann, the subtle bass of Karl Florisson and the delicate drumming of Ben Vanderwal. There is a great rapport between this quartet of musicians, each tune delicately led off by Lemann’s relaxed yet imposing guitar work. He makes playing the guitar appear effortless, with each chord change an exercise in subtlety.
The same can be said for Knight’s ease with the vocals on jazz standards such as Baby Won’t You Please Come Home, Soft Winds, Am I Blue and Undecided. Then there is the pleasure of hearing her delve into her Eurogliders’ catalogue with tunes such as Fragile, written by her former partner Bernie Lynch. Or her venture into Irish folk songs, such as Down by the Salley Gardens, set to the words of the Irish poet W.B. Yeats. That Yeats should be quoted in a jazz club is unusual, one might say.
An essential part of any performance centred on a singer is their ability to engage with the audience, and Knight is certainly up there with those who are willing to share – or even overshare – with the public. She is self-deprecating most of the time, telling tales against herself, inviting her audience into her world, if only briefly, with well-delivered and entertaining anecdotes about her colourful past as a singer. Not too much candour, mind you – just enough to make us believe in her, even if she confesses at the start that she will be telling lies.
It’s all part of a seasoned performer’s schtick to get the audience onside, and then deliver smashing vocals that confirm her status of a remarkable talent that audiences can admire and enjoy.