When you mix a capacity audience, talented local musicians and a nationally renowned star, it is bound to be a memorable evening.
Lichfield Jazz opened the 31st Lichfield Blues and Jazz Festival in great style with a performance from guitarist Tom Morgan and his trio with their special guest, Britain’s Got Talent finalist and saxophone player Julian Smith.
With strong support throughout the evening from Martin Rowberry on keyboards, who also provided the bass lines, and drummer Brad White, Tom Morgan’s electric jazz guitar playing found itself in luminous company.
Their set ranged from the feelgood themes of George Benson’s Breezin’ and the island light reggae of St Thomas, while the ballad Out Of Nowhere was a study in thematic musical development.
They added in a funk flavour to George Duke’s It’s On, before the pop songs of Lady by Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson’s Lady in My Life showed how far-ranging their musical tastes could be.
Julian Smith, who was a runner-up to Susan Boyle on Britain’s Got Talent, showed his musical pedigree during the first set closer – Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers – a study in musical telepathy between all of the players, finding new corners in a stalwart song at jazz and blues gigs and open mic nights.
The second half featured some interesting musical choices. Sting has written some songs that fit into the jazz idiom. At first listen Fragile isn’t one of them, but the duet between soprano saxophone and acoustic guitar proved to be a musical highlight of the evening, with Tom’s filigree opening giving a steady introduction to the piece.
Likewise, some of the songs by The Beatles lend themselves to jazz, but George Harrison’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps worked in this novel setting, with saxophone and guitar providing the musical interest.
The latter part of the concert added more of a pop sensibility, with another of Bill Wither’s songs, Lovely Day, providing Julian Smith with the chance to show his circular breathing techniques with the famously long note at the end.