Jazz Grooves for the February Blues
The Caroline Cook Trio
Les Brasseurs du Temps, Gatineau
Saturday, February 4, 2017 – 8 p.m.
On the set list for this concert, each song had a rhythm marked against it: bossa, medium swing, jazz waltz, groove, jazz shuffle, gypsy jazz, and more. But they all had this in common: an approachable vibe which warmed the audience on a blustery winter evening.
This was the first time that Ottawa vocalist Caroline Cook had played professionally with Toronto guitarist Kevin Barrett, whom she met when he was on the faculty of the JazzWorks Jazz Camp. As she told the audience, “I said to Kevin we're going to play together one day – and we did!”
Together with Ottawa double bassist Normand Glaude, they had originally planned to do a house concert in Manotick. When that series was cancelled, Cook moved the show to BDT, where she had previously held several successful shows.
It was very much the jazz trio show it was billed as, rather than vocalist with accompanists. In fact, Cook wasn't even on-stage for the first song of each set. Instead, she left the opening numbers to Barrett and Glaude – and particularly Glaude's harmonica and the evocative melodies he can coax from it.
Glaude has added harmonica to his skillset in the last few years, and showed a considerable ability and appreciation of its repertoire. He opened the show with the Brazilian classic number “Batida Diferente”, written by harmonica player Durval Ferreira and by Mauricio Einhorn. Accompanied by quiet guitar embroidery from Barrett, he immersed himself in the luminous melody. He was similarly successful opening the second set with “Hard To Say Goodbye”, a classic by the late jazz harmonica master Toots Thielemans.
Cook's first number was the standard “Better Than Anything”, made famous by Diana Krall and Norah Jones. She negotiated all its classic jazz references with ease, giving it a sophisticated rendition.
She credited JazzWorks with helping her with the next piece, “Minor Chant” – an instrumental by Stanley Turrentine to which she added lyrics about love and happiness. She introduced it with scatting and added her own vocal (and impressively-realistic) trumpet solo partway through. The audience responded with strong applause.
The first set was primarily jazz; as Cook said, “It's such a wonderful genre. I'm still discovering it.” Highlights included a sincere and tender “The Nearness of You”, a propulsive and swinging “Night and Day”, the smiling and snazzy “I've Got You Under My Skin”, and an achingly sad “Besame Mucho”.
Cook closed that set, however, with a recent (2013) pop/jazz number – “Comme ci, comme ça” by the French singer Zaz. She sang it fluently in French, explaining to the audience that its message was “be who you are”. Zaz has a jazz as well as a pop background, and this song easily fit into an jazz arrangement. It was a memorable number in which her upbeat vocals were well matched by Barrett's complex guitar riffs, and was highly appreciated by the audience.
The second set had more pop songs, although still presented in jazz arrangements by Cook. They weren't as interesting as the straight jazz numbers, although some did stand out, particularly the lesser-known choices.
Leon Russell's “This Masquerade” received a punctuated treatment on both guitar and vocals, and then slowed down to a more questing ballad. “St. James Infirmary” was performed as a New Orleans blues, sung with solemnity and conviction. Cook used scatting to good effect in many of her songs, including another “trumpet” solo in Leonard Cohen's “Dance Me to the End of Love”, which complemented her silky vocals and the deep groove of the song.
On the other hand, Cook reveled in the hope and sunniness of Corinne Bailey Rea's “Put Your Records On”, accompanied by bright guitar. She noted that “The 'In' Crowd” was given an instrumental version by the Ramsay Lewis Trio (as well as being covered by pop stars like Bryan Ferry), and emphasized its retro feel and dancing beat in her vocals.
Throughout the show, Barrett added nuanced guitar lines, as well as stepping out frequently in fluid solos, often with a blues edge. While he had a selection of effect pedals in front of him, he used them subtly, just enough to get the exact sound he wanted without drawing attention to the effect. I particularly liked his lyrical solo in “The Nearness of You” with bright edges and harmonics, and his flowing lines in “The Way You Make Me Feel”, decorating the melody.
Glaude added shorter harmonica solos and introductions throughout the show, adding warmth and texture to songs like “Corcovado” as well as a blues feel in “Black Coffee”. He also included romantic and melodic bass solos, for example in “California Dreaming”. In “Night and Day”, he finger-drummed on the body of his bass to emphasize the steady, percussive rhythm.
The audience was happy and involved throughout the show, strongly applauding many of the numbers. On the last number, George Gershwin's “Summertime”, they clapped to the funk beat (an unusual choice) and sang along with the lyrics.
Cook refused an encore at the end – no surprise at 10:45 p.m. after two sets of over an hour each. I think it wouldn't have hurt to tighten the show by dropping a couple of the pop songs. But it was a highly approachable show which highlighted the talents of everyone in the trio and generally portrayed the songs well.
– Alayne McGregor
- Batida Diferente
- Better Than Anything
- Minor Chant
- The Nearness of You
- Black Coffee
- Night and Day
- Besame Mucho
- 'Round Midnight
- I've Got You Under My Skin
- Comme ci, comme ça
- Hard to Say Goodbye
- This Masquerade
- California Dreaming
- St. James Infirmary
- Put Your Records On
- The Way You Make Me Feel
- Dance Me to the End of Love
- I Can't Make You Love Me
- The 'In' Crowd
Correction February 8: Added missed song to set list.