Archive for the ‘Easy Listening’ Category

Kristina Train at London's Bush Hall, March 5th 2013

Kristina Train at London’s Bush Hall, March 5th 2013



Though still relatively unknown to the wider music buying public in the UK,  London based, American born Kristina Train will not rest in the shadows for long.  Having toured in the last 4 years such artists as Chris Isaak, Herbie Hancock and Amy McDonald and having recently signed with Mercury records you get the impression that this singer is on the cusp of bigger and better things.

In the Bush Hall, a decorative former dance hall built in 1904, this was confirmed. Kristina gave the 200 or so crowd, a pastiche of sixties influenced songs that could have been inspired by the songbooks of Nancy Sinatra, Mama Cass, Petula Clark or Karen Carpenter on a more sombre day.  With the exception of two numbers, the songs were all from Kristina’s second album Dark Black, some of which reflects a difficult period in her life around 2009 with personal bereavement and divorce as well as coming to terms with the commercial failure or her first album.

Indeed, though supported by 4 extremely able band members, playing keyboard, drum, bass and guitar who achieved the remarkable feat of simultaneously looking intense and chilled out as perhaps only those well studied in 60s festival folklore could, Kristina  arrived on the small stage slightly pensive  and detached during the opening number “Dream of Me”.

Kristina Train & chiled out band, Bush Hall, London, March 5th 2013

Kristina Train & chiled out band, Bush Hall, London, March 5th 2013

Wearing what appeared to be a chiffon taffeta 1970s hippy style full dress, she would soon relax as the crowd began to enthusiastically cheer after and sometimes during every song.

At times, there was definitely a sense of nostalgic loss and longing with songs like “Pins and Needles”, “No One’s Gonna Love You” and “Saturdays”.  There were also a couple of non-album tracks with an interesting version of The Stranglers “Golden Brown” and “Wish You Me”.  During “Stick Together”, Kristina gave vent to her lower vocal range with a passionate and raw impromptu chorus very different to the sweet angelic album version.

As she got into the concert there were several amusing anecdotes including one about how she came to write the song called LA, written about dreaming escaping the cold New York winters to live in the sunny town. So, she said .. “what did I do … I ended up coming to London”… , a comment that provoked much laughter in the audience. 

The title album track “Dark Black” and in a short encore “January” ended an intimate show where Kristina and the band received a rapturous reception. Kristina looked quite delighted and it must be said, a little amazed. I’m not sure why as judging on this performance, there is a lot more to come from her, hopefully.

Birdy and Band take the well deservd applause at the end of the Shepherd's Bush Empire shoe in London, September 11th 2012

Birdy and Band take the well deservd applause at the end of the Shepherd’s Bush Empire shoe in London, September 11th 2012

Jasmine van den Bogaerde aka Birdy is already carving a quite a name for herself as a musician at the sophisticated end of pop. At the tender age of just 16, when most of her peers could be contemplating the first steps of their future career options, it is quite clear that Birdy’s route already has well laid foundations. Winner of the UK Open Mic competition in 2008, Birdy’s young career continues to scale new heights with her current single “People help the People” recently having reached the Europe Top 20 singles charts and residing in the Top 5 in Germany and Switzerland; and the previous single “Skinny Love” sitting pretty at No.6 in France.
Although, her eponymous debut album of mainly covers (the exception being “Without A Word”) has hit the top spot in a number of countries including Australia, the classically trained pianist has not had quite the same level of success in the UK, despite a Top 20 place.

This, however, should not detract from the quality of her live performances which from all evidence from September’s show at Shepherd’s Bush Empire will see her grow in stature in the future. Supported by a multi-instrumental band, including a drummer, a cellist, acoustic guitar player and guitar/bass player (these latter two also doubled up on keyboards), Birdy walked on purposefully for the few steps to her baby grand piano, sat down with arms outstretched at the keyboard in the style of a classical music concert and waited for the auditorium to quiet a little before beginning.

Birdy at play on the Baby Grand, Live at Shepherd's Bush Empire, London, September 11th 2012

Birdy at play on the Baby Grand, Live at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London, September 11th 2012

She may have sat rigid at the piano appearing at times quiet and slightly apprehensive but the remarkable thing was that each track was delivered with crystal clarity as if it had come straight off the album. “Shelter” was tinged with an air of emotional regret and was completely absorbing. “Without a word” with its lyrics about a couple on the verge of splitting up and powerful delivery, indicted her future strength as a ballad writer and the piano hook on “The District Sleeps Alone” literally had me hooked.
It was shame that there was practically no interaction with the audience apart the odd hushed “Thank you” but then given the quality of the music, was it really necessary? The memorable moments were the songs and their arrangements , like the chilled out slightly euphoric feel of “Young Blood” (yes the one from the CanonTV commercial) and the heart string tugging “People Help the People” with the melancholic mellow cello bridge which I regard as a new modern classic.

By the time the encore came with “Skinny Love”, most of the 2000 hearts at Shepherd’s Bush Empire had melted.
Birdy still has some way to go to improve on stagecraft and audience interaction. To be frank, positioning the piano way out on stage right instead of centre was distracting as was, at times, the gyrations of band members who probably thought they had to fill the void of movement. Nonetheless, the musical performance was flawless with Birdy’s voice and the musical arrangements emotionally captivating. Birdy and her band have taken these indie covers and put innocence and soul into them that produces a mesmerising effect when performed live. I can only see great things ahead for this young talent.

Emilia Martensson, Consort Cafe, Royal Albert Hall – London Jazz festival series,  17th November 2011.

Emilia Martensson performs at the Cafe Consort , London UK , November 17th 2011

Emilia Martensson - Rising Star of the UK Jazz Scene performs at the Cafe Consort, London, November 17th 2011

It was a curious experience indeed to walk into an upmarket cafe/restaurant at midday, struggle to get a table in what proved to a venue for ladies and tourists that lunch and yet witness a full-on jazz gig of  an hour and half that could have equally taken place in a smoky jazz club in Paris or Chicago.

But Emilia Martensson and her band delivered in spades. Opening the show with “If You Go Away” Emilia showcased her charming soothing voice accompanied with light touch piano solos as she conveyed beautifully a sort of mournful longing but in a considered and controlled delivery. A contingent of Emilia’s family and friends were present in the odd banana shaped room as she dedicated the song “Something in the Way she moves” to her sister , a song whose lyrics about a close intimate relationship with an extremely melodic and soulful piano as the main accompaniment,  reminded me stylistically of Nerina Pallot combined with the quiet power of Eva Cassidy.

There were certainly a diverse mix of styles in the first set including a song in Swedish about the seasons which evoked the power of nature in its composition; and another with a bossa nova beat where at one point bass and piano played so frenetically off one-another, it was like two pieces string twisted up together, pulling apart to try to unravel the knots but in doing so creating further tension. Somehow the musical conundrum resolved itself in the end. In spite of it being midday, this particular musical piece definitely had me imagining being at that smoky jazz club .  Credit to bassist Sam Lasserson , pianist Barry Green and drummer Jon Scott for bringing that atmosphere.

The final song at the end of the first part of this two set show called “Everything Put Together Sooner or Later Falls Apart” contained a strong message about drug addiction against the backdrop of Broadway style melody. This melody masterly transformed into an off-soul slow jazz funk solo with a mellow bass before bringing the half to a close.

Emilia Martensson and Barry Green on piano at the Cafe Consort, London, November 17th 2011

Emilia Martensson and Barry Green on piano at the Cafe Consort, London, November 17th 2011

In the second set the versatility of this captivating singer was shown again when she slightly altered the tonality of her voice to convey an “easy listening” style while ably covering James Taylor’s “Another Day” juxtaposed by the equally versatile jazz funk piano of Barry Green.

A second Swedish ballad “Krystallen den fina” in 3:4 time revealed an almost child-like pop side of Martensson’s voice and contained a laid back jazz piano melody bordering on classical that was ingenious in its subtlety. Do not ask me for a translation I do not speak Swedish but it was charming

“And so it goes”  –  an intimate love ballad with great lyrics and a gorgeous piano intro and solos played immaculately  – the title track of Emilia Martensson  and Barry Green’s new album brought the whole concert to a close.  

Martensson, already a winner (along with Jon Scott as part of the Kairos 4tet) of a MOBO award is rapidly rising star on the British Jazz scene and this understated but nonetheless musically versatile performance demonstrates why.  In spite of the unusual time and setting on the concert, in spite of the constant two and fro of waiters, I really enjoyed the show. This was also one of the Best Value for Money concerts I have had the privilege of attending. For the price of a pot of tea I came out into the cold Autumn sunshine feeling relaxed and serene. Not many artists can make me feel that way.