From jazz diva to sharp-eyed songstress

Gwyneth Herbert, Snape Proms, August 11From jazz newcomer to songwriting songstress Gwyneth Herbert has come a long way in the last six years. She may be spreading her artistic wings with her latest collection of self-penned mini-dramas.

Andrew Clarke

Gwyneth Herbert, Snape Proms, August 11

From jazz newcomer to sharp-eyed, songwriting songstress Gwyneth Herbert has come a long way in the last six years. She may be spreading her artistic wings with her latest collection of self-penned mini-dramas but she hasn't strayed too far from her roots.

Today her songs are more likely to be about her daily life - trouble with her faithful mini and the bizarre characters she meets on the night bus back to her home in Hackney - rather than trotting out another Cole Porter standard but the improvisation is still there.


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Her eclectic and enthralling gig at the Snape Proms demonstrates the fact that she is no longer a jazz diva - the role her first record company tried to squeeze her into in the wake of Jamie Cullum's success. In a recent interview she confessed that she really wasn't a jazz singer. Jazz was one of her influences but wasn't the be-all and end-all. “I am more of a story-teller really” and her show at the Snape Proms certainly proved that to be true.

A hugely innovative and varied set showed that she is quickly maturing both as a writer and a singer but that jazz influence isn't too far beneath the surface as her stunning reworking of Dolly Parton's Jolene proved.

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The musical invention and the tight knit, cohesive feeling she generated with her backing band was beautiful to watch, and listen to, but was rendered all the more amazing when she revealed it was drummer Dado Pasqualini's, second gig with them.

The way that the four musicians played and interacted with one another was an object lesson in restraint and sensitivity. They filled the famous concert hall with sound but nothing was over done.

It was largely an acoustic evening except for Gwyneth having a bit of fun with her new toy, a digital sampler that records sounds and vocals, layering them up and firing them back at the audience - making Gwyneth her own backing singer.

The first half was a diverse collection of self-penned treats from past albums and idiosyncratic covers while the second half was the unveiling of her bewitching of her new album All the Ghosts. It takes a brave performer to fill an entire set with as yet unknown songs but Gwyneth Herbert has the charisma, the songs and more importantly the voice to carry it off.

Her unmiked encore from the audience provided the perfect end to the evening.

Andrew Clarke

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