Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Just how many members of Richard Michael’s family are richly talented musicians is hard to fathom. But like a magician producing a stream of rabbits from a hat, so he seemed to conjure up offspring to create a winning ensemble that delivered a superb, but all too short, walk through the great American songbook.
Off piste again and another gem from St Mark’s artSpace. Last year I reviewed Richard Michael’s excellent History of Jazz Piano (playing again here on 19th and 26th at 7.30pm if you’re interested) but for this stroll through the great American songbook, he’s rounded up members of his immediate family to help him out. Step forward son Paul on bass and daughter Hilary on soprano sax and violin to try and keep pace with Dad’s mesmeric jazz piano playing.
Starting with I’ve Got The World On A String it was evident that music is firmly in the Michael’s genes as Paul and Hilary are just as much virtuosos in their respective instrumental spheres as their father is on the piano. The sheet music looked a bit incidental, as it should be in all good jazz, as bass and sax were allowed the freedom to jam in this and just about every other piece delivered in this wide and varied hour.
Caravan from the Duke Ellington stable was followed by the slower and very evocative Daydream before we turned to up the romance levels with a medley consisting of My Funny Valentine, When I Fall In Love and My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose, a Scottish interloper in what was otherwise an exclusively American set.
Richard Michael’sfeel for jazz and the piano are quite simply sublime. He plays with such feeling and expression, bringing the music to life in a way that can’t help but lift your mood and brighten the dullest of days. Hilary’s some talent as well, sensuous sax playing that blended seamlessly with bass and piano. She’s also a very accomplished violinist to boot. Paul’s bass playing was sympathetic and never subservient to the rest of the ensemble – give his fingers a chance to jam and he’ll produce innovative and delightful rhythms and sounds. And just to emphasise this really was a family providing good old-fashioned family entertainment, out of the audience to play part of the set popped another Michael family member, Hilary’s sister Joanna, another violinist of considerable ability.
As we rolled through a selection from Porgy and Bess towards a finale from the Count Basie stable, you wished that this was more than just a one hour set. When you’ve got musicians at the top of their game and when they are so evidently having great fun creating music, you’ve got the recipe for perfect entertainment. So it was here. All of which just leaves you hungry for more.