Nov 19 – Zoltan Sagi Quintet feat. Devon Harrison

We don’t have too many vocalists at Severn Jazz and an evening with a male singer is quite rare – have we ever had an evening of songs delivered by a man? Devon Harrison came highly recommended. He had a sound, we were told, akin to that of Johnny Hartman. For those who don’t know, Mr Hartman had a distinctive style and he recorded some classic tunes with John Coltrane in 1963. Now when Devon sang his first, second and third number, I could not hear this likeness. But just like a sound or a perfume fragrance reminds you of something in the past, so it happened with Mr Harrison. Every now and again there was just a hint that the Hartman sound was there. Probably not intentionally, but it was there. Just for a moment, but that moment was enough.

Even so, I’m sure that singers like instrumentalists don’t want to be sound-a-likes. After all, we are not talking tribute acts here – this is jazz with the possibility of original treatments for every performance. We are listening to individuals with their own sound. On the music side, Devon came up with some of the usual fare – Almost Like Being In Love, Body And Soul, I’ve Got You Under My Skin. You know the sort of songs I mean. But he did attempt some jazz classics which were perhaps a tad alien for vocalising. But they worked. For instance, there was a vocal version of Horace Silver’s Song For My Father. Another one was Triste and then there was Green Dolphin Street. Full marks for attempting those and also for the main programme which was populated by well known standards.

To be fair, the band did play a few instrumentals but it was mainly the band and songs from Devon. The musicians played their part very well and their presence was just as they should have been when playing for a singer. But the music was arranged so that there was plenty of room for those with instruments to shine. As for the musicians, they were all well known to the audience. One new face was drummer Keith York, but Al Gurr was on keyboard, Clive Morton playing bass and of course Zoltan Sagi playing saxophone and clarinet were quite at home in their surroundings and as is usual, certainly produced an evening of superb jazz.