Stacey Kent, Norwich

DAVID WAKEFIELD The 20th East Coast Jazz Festival is turning out to be a great success, and with artists of this calibre it's not surprising.

DAVID WAKEFIELD

The 20th East Coast Jazz Festival is turning out to be a great success, and with artists of this calibre it's not surprising.

Stacey Kent, a New Yorker, but married to British tenor saxophonist Jim Tomlinson, is one of a succession of young women from across the Atlantic to reassure one that popular music is still sung stylishly and, well, properly.

This immaculate performance, aided in no small way by the Maddermarket's delightfully warm acoustics, proved she is a worthy successor to great American ladies of jazz like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday.

She swings the up-tempo numbers with a verve to match her bubbly personality, but it is as an interpreter of ballads that Stacey really shines.

Two examples in last night's performance: the Richard Rodgers number It Might As Well Be Spring, and the old Johnny Burke/Jimmy Van Heusen classic Polka Dots and Moonbeams, both featuring fine work by guitarist Colin Oxley. The whole programme was sympathetically backed by Oxley, David Newton (piano), Steve Chamberlain (bass) and Jim Tomlinson, a beautifully understated player whose breathy tone complements his wife's vocals.

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Her singing apart, what endeared her to the audience was her instant ability to communicate, and her total lack of self-importance. How many stars of this magnitude would draw out the winning ticket in a raffle to help the theatre's air-conditioning fund?

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