The Australian-style weather may have already been a thing of the past by Friday evening but there was still a sultry, balmy quality to the music played in the Recital Room – courtesy of Janet Seidel‘s Sydney-based group. The charismatic singer-pianist set the tone with the very first tune, a gentle bossa nova version of Day In, Day Out on which her soft, unfussy vocals were offset by just guitar and bass, creating a sound very reminiscent of the gorgeous Julie London albums, Julie and Julie Is Her Name.
The theme of the concert was the Johnny Mercer songbook, and – as one of the greatest wordsmiths of his time – Mercer could not have asked for a better champion of his songs than Seidel whose attention to the lyrics and their meaning was obvious from the start. It was a rare treat to hear Lazy Bones, Mercer’s early hit with Hoagy Carmichael, but Seidel went one better and included the even more rarely-exhumed verse – accompanied by just Chuck Morgan on ukelele – and the effect was extremely evocative.
Other highlights – and there were many – included Blues in the Night, Come Rain or Come Shine and Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home, all of which revealed the bluesier side of the otherwise cool, quiet and spellbinding Seidel vocals. What was particularly striking was how Seidel, who honed her craft in piano bars, established an instant rapport with her audience – and was rewarded with a wildly enthusiastic and warm response to every number.
(First published in The Scotsman, Monday October 2)