Jacqui Dankworth and Charlie Wood

Live Review | NCEM, York | Review by Liam Wilkinson

Renowned British vocalist Jacqui Dankworth and her husband, the Memphis-born pianist and vocalist Charlie Wood, made a welcome and notably relaxed visit to York’s NCEM this evening. The intimate performance, which featured just a single piano and two of the best voices in contemporary jazz, revolved entirely around the theme of duets and collaboration via a carefully selected repertoire of songs celebrating love and partnership and mostly composed by teams of two. Kicking proceedings off appropriately with the Hoffman Manning classic “Two to Tango”, complete with chunky New Orleans-style piano, Jacqui and Charlie impressed their constantly attentive audience with such standards as “Autumn In New York”, “Georgia on My Mind” and “I’m Beginning to See The Light” as well as affectionate versions of such modern classics as Lennon McCartney’s “I Will” and Carole King’s evergreen “You’ve Got a Friend”. What was more impressive than the choice of songs for tonight’s concert, however, was the remarkable interplay of voices and instrument, especially when these two eminent and intimately connected musicians lathered the choruses of such songs as “Corcovado” and “Just You, Just Me” with exquisite harmonies. And whilst Wood’s piano playing frequently ascended to dizzying heights with complex improvisations and playful shifting of phrases and chord structures, there were occasional moments of breathless charm and aching grace, especially during Ewan MacColl’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” which, with its hymn-like dignity, provided the perfect soundtrack to the sun’s lowering in the stained glass windows of St Mary’s Church. It was a moment that made a silent congregation of the enchanted Saturday evening crowd and one that reminded us of the golden thread of Jacqui Dankworth’s genealogy as this fine singer’s voice commanded every iota of our attention.