Carleen Anderson

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Carleen Anderson

Carleen Anderson

Posted: 25 May 2017

Carleen Anderson

Sage Gateshead

29 June


Amy Winehouse insisted you should see James Brown’s god-daughter Carleen Anderson at least three times. Either everyone already had done so or they were taking no notice as a gig originally scheduled for Hall One took place instead in Hall Two.

Although there was no explanation why, the band were missing someone too. Violinist Samy Bishai was absent and replaced by Emma Smith who had only met Carleen and co two hours before the start of the gig! 

A member of The Elysian Quartet, Smith added another string to her bow by taking the show in her stride. Only at the end when she wasn’t sure whether to leave the stage with Anderson, only to sit back down again when she realised the rest of the band were staying put, was there any clue that she was learning on the job. 

Mind you, Smith has previously played in a volcano and a barn while being dive-bombed by bats so for her presumably this was just another gig in the life of a jobbing musician. Or was it?

This was a deep, musically complex show led by Anderson whose vocal range showcased why she is a 2017 nominee as Jazz FM Vocalist of the Year. A performance encompassing jazz, opera, soul, gospel and even chamber music was the sort of thing you might expect to hear on late night Radio 3. 

A Mercury Prize nominated artist best known for her background with The Brand New Heavies and The Young Disciples, this time Anderson built a 90-minute performance around her seventh solo album, ‘Cage Street Memorial, The Pilgrimage’.

“Gratitude in abundance to each of you on this journey of new music” uttered Carleen at the start of this exploration of the story of her grandparents through to the beginnings of her son’s life. 

Themes of renewal and inner power permeate much of the material which draws on influences that include Charlie Parker and Rachmaninoff.

As the winner of a Worldwide FM Lifetime Achievement Award, this work is clearly something Anderson feels passionate about. In all honesty there were passages where my attention wandered but it was a mostly enjoyable evening, with Carleen evidently undaunted by playing to a largely empty house in contrast to having previously worked with names as big as Sir Paul McCartney and Johnny Cash. 

One of her five solo top 30 hits in the ‘90s was a cover of McCartney’s ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’. Having stepped in at the last minute maybe Emma Smith might consider producing her own version on violin.


 

Rob Mason


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