Jacqui Dankworth & Brodsky Quartet


Jacqui Dankworth (vocals) & Brodsky Quartet [Andrew Haveron & Ian Belton (violins), Paul Cassidy (viola) & Jacqueline Thomas (cello)]

Reviewed by: Julian Maynard-Smith

Reviewed: 13 March, 2007
Venue: Jerwood Hall, LSO St Luke's, Old Street, London

Just from glancing at the seating arrangements, a casual visitor to Jerwood Hall might have guessed that this performance would be a jazz-classical hybrid: normal seating for the circle and balcony, but candlelit tables, jazz-club style, for the stalls.

There was no crossover in the first set, however, when the Brodsky Quartet performed Ravel’s sole String Quartet. The performance swooned with romanticism, from sweet melancholia in the opening and slow movements, to tip-toe pizzicato in the second one to suitably vigorous and impassioned bowing in the finale. A slight sense of timidity to the second movement might have been more to do with acoustics than performance: St Luke’s is a big space.

The microphones, along with Jacqui Dankworth, came out for the second half. It was an ambitious programme, stretching from Benjamin Britten’s arrangement of “Down by the Salley Gardens” to the spiky weirdness of Björk. Elvis Costello’s “Rocking Horse Road”, given a strong Gaelic flavour, was a pungent reminder that a violin is also a fiddle.

Jacqui Dankworth is an extraordinary singer, sharing her mother’s impeccable intonation and huge range: from the velvety seduction of Sarah Vaughan (“Like Someone in Love”) to an ear-tickling whisper on a tune with convincingly sung Spanish lyrics, to growls and hollers on the stomping blues finale “Sitting on Top of the World”.

There were limitations with the format: on the jazz numbers, the strings had difficulty swinging (a perennial problem); and Dankworth’s spine-tingling scatting on the jazz-oriented numbers reminded me that what she most excels at is jazz singing. Nevertheless these were consummate musicians tackling an almost wilfully eclectic range of material with passion and intelligence. If they can encourage non-classical audiences to develop further musical interests, they are to be applauded.

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