Elaine Delmar and her musicians

DAVID WAKEFIELD East Coast Jazz Festival at Norwich Playhouse

DAVID WAKEFIELD

In these days when terms like 'star' and 'idol' are bandied about with gay abandon, it does one's ears good to hear a singer of such professionalism and pride in her work as Elaine Delmar, who has been doing more than justice to the great popular songs of our time for many years, and giving us much pleasure in the process.

With a theme of love, the Great American Songbook yielded all the material needed, from the humour and light approach of Cole Porter and George Gershwin to the sheer melodic beauty of perhaps the best of them, Jerome Kern.

Backed by Brian Dee (piano), Alec Dankworth (bass), Ralph Salmins (drums) and, adding colourful fill-ins and typically rumbustious solos, Bruce Adams on trumpet and flugelhorn, Ms Delmar showed a receptive audience a voice of great range, colour and power.

Although excellent on the up-tempo swingers, she saved her best for the ballads, notably Just My Bill (from Kern's musical Showboat) and, accompanied only by Dankworth's bass, Summertime, from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess.

In a nice touch, she threw in a couple of numbers by contemporary British writer Duncan Lamont, including Hymn to Jobim, his haunting tribute to Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim, and his setting of Spike Milligan's poignant English Folk Song.

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This was a top-quality performance and, with no fewer than four changes of glamorous outfit in the course of a two-hour show, Elaine Delmar demonstrated that such things matter when communicating with an audience.

The only disappointing aspect was a poor sound balance for part of the first half.

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