The hot ticket for the opening night of the London Jazz Festival is Jazz Voice. Curated, scored and conducted by Guy Barker and his specially selected 40 piece orchestra; each year welcomes an eclectic mix of tip-top vocalists performing classics and new compositions.
This year’s roll call was quite something: Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Gregory Porter, Mary Pearce, Ian Shaw, Michelle Dockery, Lucinda Belle, Norma Winstone and Shingai Shoniwa. The evening was hosted one of the UK's national treasures, Victoria Wood.
A lot of preparation and rehearsal goes into staging such a grand performance, especially with the show being broadcast live on BBC R3. So back in September, Guy and I agreed that a little spotlight should be shone on this preparation and he invited me to document the whole process from the first 1-to-1 run through with each artist and then on through the various rehearsals until the big night.
So, for a few coffee laden mornings at 9am, with cleaners still on duty from the night before; Guy, Dave Newton the pianist, production manager Dylan Bate and I gathered with the guest vocalists at the 606 Club out in Chelsea. One by one, each artist came in and went through Guy's fresh off the press song sheets. Superb, relaxed intimacy with amazing musicianship. Sweet.
Next up was a super long day at the gigantic Music Bank studios in South London, whereby the orchestra staged full rehearsals with all the vocalists. For the record, I've shot in there before and the colour/decor has to be the worst in London. Does anyone know of any worse?
Suffice to say, one has to deal with what's presented and luckily the low, autumnal sun decided to break through, which allowed me to put some zam-zam into the proceedings by working with the long shadows.
Moving amongst the orchestra when Gregory launched into his incendiary 12 min burner 1960 What? was completely electric.
Finishing off the day was Shingai Shoniwa of The Noisettes, who turned up in with the largest hat box ever to grace London town - her talent for making an entrance came to fruition for the live show; the dress was pure needle & thread & architecture! And what a voice...
Roll on the big day, another long rehearsal/soundcheck, many backline double checks, Victoria Wood playing her role with aplomb and bam! the audience is seated. Cue Gregory walking in from stage right and Ian from stage left through the audience for the opening song and Lucinda turning the sex dial up to 11...