Liane Carroll dazzles with vintage performance at Celebrate Voice Festival

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Liane Carroll celebrated, life, jazz and the unrestrained joy of music making on Friday night in the atmospheric, vaulting and somehow still cosy, converted church that is the Salisbury Arts Centre. The duo performance, with bass player and husband Roger Carey, was the opening gig of the second Celebrate Voice Festival, running for 10 days in various venues around the city and Carroll was flying the jazz flag in the varied programme. It was a typically riotous, emotional and infectiously joyful performance.

She doesn’t so much sing songs as inhabit them, bending them to her will and mood and always, always making them speak to the heart. The source material was varied, with Rogers and Hammerstein via the Sound of Music, Donald Fagen via the Nightfly album, Tom Waits, Nina Simone, slices of Americana all pressed into service. There were originals, notably the Joe Stilgoe penned title song of the new release ‘Seaside’ and a Billie Holiday moment, with ‘Fine and Mellow’ and ‘All of Me’ given the Carroll/ Carey treatment.

Viscerally grooving swing, breezy latin vibes and rich gospel cadences underpinned much of the two sets, locked-in exchange of phrases between piano and bass keeping the blood fizzing. ‘My Favorite Things’ galloped along with the lyric embellished with Carroll’s bantering asides, ‘Mercy Now’ showcased the depth of soul in her delivery. Nina Simone’s ‘Sinner Man’ spiralled off into an exhilarating vocal flight of bluesey fancy. The partnership with Roger Carey is as instinctive as you might of expect of one that has endured for decades and he was un-phased by what seemed like unscripted swerves and segues from one song to another and back. A bit of ‘Old Devil Moon’ popped up in ‘What Now’, a stanza of ‘Dancing Cheek to Cheek’ in a galloping take of ‘Bye Bye Blackbird’. 

 It’s always a roller-coaster ride with Liane Carroll. She has everyone laughing with a mischievous one-liner one moment and then silenced the next with the distilled intensity invested in a lyric. The capacity audience in Salisbury were with her every step of the way and breathless as the evening wound up with ‘Wonderful World’. This was a vintage Carroll performance to launch the festival and a true celebration of voice in jazz. Those who were able to stay after the gig got an extra insight as Liane did a 'Question and Answer' session with Mark Allen, owner of Jazzwise magazine and founder of the Wiltshire Jazz Festival, and talked freely about her career. 

– Mike Collins