Joanna MacGregor and Andy Sheppard

DAVID WAKEFIELD The Forum, Norwich


The Forum, Norwich

Sometimes musical labels become irrelevant. On paper this was a jazz/classical meeting; in reality it was a collaboration by like-minded musicians. Deep River, a suite of songs associated with America's Deep South, and devised by MacGregor, proved to be an absorbing and at times electric choice for the first of a series of sessions promised for this most classy of venues.

MacGregor's piano and Sheppard's tenor and soprano saxophones were fleshed out by electronic mixes and fill-ins, and, for the most part it worked well. Sheppard's breathy technique was complemented by some surprisingly earthy piano, with more than a touch at times of the Floyd Cramer technique.

Opening with the soulful Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child, they progressed through a programme that included songs by Tom Waits, Bob Dylan and William and Versey Smith, whose Everybody Help The Boys Come Home was sung to the 1929 backing of a street performance - a clever touch which proved that the electronica was not all gimmickry and no substance.

But, in a performance that - wisely in my view - went straight through with no interval, the highlights were the songs played fairly straight. Spiritual, by Josh Haden, and associated with Johnny Cash, was a thing of stark beauty which held the audience almost breathless. Likewise Georgia Lee, by Tom Waits, and Dylan's Ring Them Bells… performances that showed that The Forum does have a decent acoustic.

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The audience reaction was highly enthusiastic, showing that there is a place for eclectic exercises of this kind in Norwich.