Conal Fowkes – Woody Allen & Jazz, Tron Kirk, Thursday July 24th ****
It was a sign of how elegantly thought-through his main solo jazz festival concert was that Conal Fowkes kicked off proceedings in his Woody Allen-themed evening with the tune I’ve Heard That Song Before, one of the numbers that open Allen’s 1986 masterpiece Hannah and Her Sisters – and a title that summed up the fact that we were going to hear a programme of music familiar from its association with the great New York filmmaker.
So, over the course of Thursday’s concert, Fowkes – who has a lovely, easygoing, swinging piano style with a clear Fats Waller influence (along with some dashes of Teddy Wilson) – dished up tunes that many of us first heard in such iconic films as Annie Hall. Particularly delightful was a medley from Manhattan, which had an all Gershwin soundtrack; Fowkes’s tender and dreamy Someone To Watch Over Me was a knockout, as was his interpretation of Si tu vois ma mere, the opening theme of Midnight in Paris.
For that film, Fowkes had sung and played piano, but he is – by his own admission – not as accomplished a singer as he is a pianist, and certainly his instrumental numbers were far superior to the ones he also sang. Including numbers which Allen plays on clarinet with his band – of which Fowkes is a member – meant that the already varied programme could also feature such rarely played jazz gems as Jelly Roll Morton’s Good Old New York, with which Allen apparently likes to end his gigs when he’s on tour.
First published in The Scotsman, Saturday July 26th