Georgia Mancio's triumphant triple bill at second Pizza Hang

It's been something of an annus mirabilis for the vocalist, lyricist and producer Georgia Mancio. Marking her eighteenth anniversary as a professional musician, 2018 has seen her nominated for Best Vocalist in both the Parliamentary and British Jazz Awards, play her first US dates with her esteemed songwriting partner Alan Broadbent, record a new album with pianist and composer Kate Williams (Finding Home, due for release in 2019), as well as present the second edition of her mini festival, Hang.

Presented in one of London's most intimate venues, this opening night of Hang #2 featured a mouth-watering triple bill of duets: a celebration of female writers with pianist and composer Nikki Iles, a homage to vocalist and songwriter Abbey Lincoln with harpist Alina Bzhezhinska, plus a welcome reunion with pianist and songwriter Tom Cawley, revisiting songs from their 2014 ReVoice! collaboration.

The evening found Mancio at the height of her appreciable powers, with tempos perfectly chosen, phrasing that served to heighten the song's narrative, and an ever deepening expressive range. There was a palpable sense, too, of a genuine musical conversation unfolding and the joy of discovering new interpretative approaches.

The opening set highlighted both the plaintive beauty and communicative power of Iles' pianism. It included a UK premiere from the duo, a captivating new song, 'From Me To You', penned by Mancio and her aforementioned Songbook partner, Broadbent, as a touching tribute to Mancio's late father-in-law, Peter Vaughan. Co-written by Iles and the great Norma Winstone, and recorded by them on The Printmakers' fine 2015 album Westerley, the arresting opening of 'Tideway' possessed the ethereal weightlessness of a Debussy prelude, with Mancio imitating the soughing of the wind over Iles' gently rippling backdrop.

The Mancio/Bzhezhinska set included a terrific reading of Lincoln's best loved standard, 'Throw It Away', with Mancio deftly employing a tube of peppercorns as a subtle percussive backdrop, as well as affecting takes on 'Bird Alone' and 'Caged Bird', with Bzhezhinska's sparkling glissandos, trills and tremolos adding immeasurably to the timbral palette.

In the third and final set featuring Tom Cawley, it was a real pleasure to hear the pair's gorgeous waltz, 'Bendita', again – a song of rare eloquence and one of the highlights of Mancio's 2015 release Live at Revoice! With Cawley's wide-ranging stylistic palette referencing everything from Randy Newman to Robert Glasper, the pair also premiered 'Mary', a striking portrait of Mancio's maternal grandmother whose Aryan looks and perfect German enabled her to smuggle messages for the Italian partisans in World War II, at the tender age of 19. With all four musicians taking the stage, and Cawley dusting down his melodica chops, Sheila Jordan's 'The Crossing' provided the apposite encore.

Hang concludes this evening at Pizza Express Jazz Club.

– Peter Quinn

– Photo by Tim Dickeson

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