Imagine a séance in a darkened upper room, where the unruly spirits of such jazz greats as Ella Fitzgerald, Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong vie to break through to us expectant mortals.
Actually, keep the darkened upper room but scrap the séance and introduce instead Lillian Boutté, a diminutive human dynamo from New Orleans with a grin that can stun at 60 paces and a voice that can switch from silky croon to an earthy growl that reaches right down to her yellow plimsolls.
Propelled with deft swing by a home trio of Tom Finlay on piano, Ed Kelly on bass and drummer Keith Haldane, Boutté channels the legacy of the aforementioned greats and their peers through her own, irresistibly extrovert delivery, infused with soul, blues and not a little swamp funk, as in the steamy bayou incantation of Strong, Strong Medicine – a beaty reminder of her native city’s recent tribulations.
For the most part, though, she injected old favourites with her own pizzazz: C’est ci bon veering between perky Parisienne chic and deliciously hoarse Crescent City holler; Ella Fitzgerald’s A-Tisket, A-Tasket switching from coy to sassy in the bat of an eyelid and Lipstick Traces working up a soulful holler. She delivered a great, bluesy growl, too, in her lament for the long departed red-light district of New Orleans in the delectable Storyville, all four performers swinging with gusto.
Bare-Footin’ also had that little upper room jumping – to the extent that one audience member joined Boutté for an impromptu dance, while during her closing What A Wonderful World, she managed to scoot round the room, shaking hands with everyone in mid-song and radiating bonhomie in a sort of Satchmo-infused pax vobiscum. We felt blessed accordingly.
Rating: * * * * *
Until 26 August. Today 7pm and 9pm.