Music festival launches in style

The Paul Eshelby Band, St Peter & St Paul, Fressingfield, September 24Here was a smashing choice of band to play the opening concert at the fourth Fressingfield Music Festival.

The Paul Eshelby Band, St Peter & St Paul, Fressingfield, September 24

Here was a smashing choice of band to play the opening concert at the fourth Fressingfield Music Festival.

The recipe? Take six of Britain's finest musicians in Paul Eshelby (trumpet and flugelhorn), Alan Barnes (baritone and alto saxophones), John Pearce on piano, Alec Dankworth (double bass), Gordon Campbell (trombone) and drummer Ralph Salmins - and then introduce the magical Lee Gibson, perhaps our most underrated singer, for a evening of jazz in the delightful surroundings of Fressingfield's Parish Church.

There's a case that Lee should have the status of her contemporaries Claire Martin, Stacey Kent and Liane Carroll at the top of the tree: poised, relaxed and in charge, she is the consummate interpreter of a lyric - she's elegant, stylish and sexy, too.


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Paul Eshelby's choice of material (cherry picked from the Great American Songbook) did drop in her lap, it must be said. Tunes such as If I Were A Bell, I've Got It Bad And That Ain't Good, Our Love Is Here To Stay and a show stopping finale of Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone were excellent vehicles for a tight-knit septet: Paul's strong flugelhorn playing and Alan Barnes's languid baritone solos were particular highlights.

One quiet word to the festival organisers: as so often when a church takes the bold decision to stage a jazz gig, the lighting was unsympathetic - too dim in the first set, too bright in the second. Some judiciously placed coloured spotlights will make all the difference.

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Notwithstanding, this was a great concert - and a knockabout version of Doris Day's Secret Love found the audience in fine voice and word perfect.

Donald Muir

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