It all leads back to the blues, doesn’t it.
For Heiða Forsyth and Amber Epp, the blues, specifically a raucous Evil Gal Blues, capped a nearly three-hour shared concert Sunday, Oct. 24, in which each of the young jazz singers swung, scatted and sang their way through some of their favourite standards or own compositions.
The set list ran from Sting to Cole Porter, from Joni Mitchell to Kurt Elling, to Epp’s own Keep Walking, but the common denominator at the Park Theatre was a couple of good singers putting on a concert so they could sing the jazz they love so much. The vagaries of working as freelance musicians, playing a variety of music, means the singers don’t always get to prove their jazz chops. As Forsyth told the full house, "I haven’t sung jazz in a long time, It’s great to stretch my wings."
Epp and Forsyth are, obviously, a new generation of singers who, while they still appreciate and perform the American Songbook standards, are including their own tastes in the canon.
Epp performed Until, by Sting and Amelia and Coyote, by Joni Mitchell. Forsyth, whose background includes a love of country music, performed a terrific version of Wichita Lineman, the Jimmy Webb song popularized by Glenn Campbell. The key, of course, is reworking them with a jazz sensibility
Epp has returned to her piano studies and played on a few tunes, but it was her teacher George Colligan, who teaches in the jazz studies department of the U of M faculty of music, who shone at the keyboard.
It was Colligan who drove the rollicking Evil Gal Blues and soloed beautifully during Forsyth’s set. Guitarist Larry Roy performed the same function during Epp’s set, with great solos and comping.
Bassist Julian Bradford and drummer Curtis Nowosad were a rock-steady rhythm pairing, having performed with the two singers for a half-dozen years or so, since they were all students hanging out the Osborne Freehouse hoping to get in on the Monday night jam session.