New Generation Jazz: Rosie Frater-Taylor
The Verdict, Brighton
Friday 27th September, 2019
It was ‘all change’ at the Verdict for this month’s gig in the New Generation Jazz series. Gone were the heady improvisations of the ‘Nu Jazz’ to be replaced by the wonderfully sublime vocals of the delightful Rosie Frater-Taylor. Catgorised by many as a crossover artist between folk and jazz, this twenty year old has already made herself a favourite among both critics and audiences during her short career. After launching her debut album On My Mind at Kansas Smitty’s club in London she was described by Jazzwise magazine as “one to watch in 2019” and “a songwriter of her time”. There have already been sell out shows at Soho’s Pizza Express Jazz Club, an appearance on BBC Radio London’s Inspirit programme, plus a successful tour of Germany on her CV prior to the long awaited Brighton performance. Also playing guitar and ukulele with equal aplomb, the singer was joined by a trio of top line musicians from the UK jazz scene. Pianist Deschanel Gordon is a genuine rising star holding down a place in the Mercury nominated and award-winning genre-bending band Seed Ensemble. Influenced in his early years by the music of Oscar Peterson he has made recent appearances at Ronnie Scott’s, The Jazz Cafe and Love Supreme Festival. Hugo Piper is a very fine bass player, originally with The National Youth Jazz Collective he has wide interests in jazz, funk, soul and Motown and was at the Verdict last month with Brothers Testament. For this gig he appeared on bass guitar throughout. On drums and cajon was Steve Taylor, (the father of Rosie) and one of the country’s top jazz percussionists who is leader of his own ‘Big Band Explosion’ and acts as musical director at Ziggy’s Club in North London. Recently he was quite rightly described as “World class” by Rhythm magazine. On some numbers the quartet were joined by two excellent backing vocalists, Elsa Hackett and Luca Manning.
It was obvious to all from the very first song Better Days, a new composition from the leader, that we were listening to a very special talent, not only as a vocalist with a very engaging voice but also as a superb guitarist, great composer and someone with immediate audience communication skills well beyond her years. We were soon treated to the first of two fine tributes to the legendary singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell. Help Me is a cut from Court And Spark the most successful album of Joni’s career, recorded in 1973. This showcased the singers ability to perform with perfect diction and clarity across a range of tempos and also featured a fine piano break above fluid imaginative drumming. The balance of the first set was understandingly taken up by numbers from the current album, with the ballad In A Dream bringing out the best qualities of Rosie’s voice.
If part one was a success, and it most certainly was, part two raised the bar considerably. Things got underway with a real ‘down home blues’ from the sixties I Don’t Need No Doctor which was recorded by the likes of Ray Charles and Joe Cocker. This lady’s voice is adaptable across genres, and so it proved during this duet where she was accompanied only by her own guitar and the cajon (a box-like percussion instrument from Peru). When the rarity of a ukulele appears on the stage of a jazz club, or any other for that matter, much muttering and sighing can often be heard from the audience. There was no need for such sentiments at this gig. Using the same amplification as for the guitar, and playing at the same high level, it fitted perfectly into the musical soundscape, without any overtones of George Formby at all. A good example of this was contained in the up-beat cover of the album’s title track and opening cut, On My Mind, a real crowd pleaser. Further covers from the current recording and new music for release next year kept the pot boiling before the most spectacular and extended number of the night, Gil Scott- Heron’s Lady Day and John Coltrane from his 1971 album Pieces Of A Man. Call it ‘scat’ or wordless vocals, there were passages in nearly every song but here it reached a new level which Betty Carter or Norma Winstone would have been pleased to have achieved. Combined with flawless and complex guitar runs this was a tour de force of this young lady’s considerable talents. There was one more spectacular showpiece to come, a second tribute to Joni Mitchell with a medley based on Harry’s House from 1975, which brought out both the strong and sensitive sides of Rosie’s voice before the gig closed with Crazy, a modern classic from international hit maker Seal and a short reprise of On My Mind as a well deserved and fully appreciated encore.