Martin Taylor & Alison Burns: Ella Fitzgerald at 100

Sunday, November 12th, 2017

Reviewer: Reg Webb


Recently, Steve Wright has been putting on gigs which would expose me to musicians I had never heard before, or musicians playing in bands I had never heard before.

There's always something to learn, and we're very lucky to have the opportunity to hear new music and new talent locally.


However, there is also the kind of gig you go to because you have a pretty good idea of what you're going to get.


So it was last Sunday with Martin Taylor and Alison Burns, whom I affectionately call The McTaylors.


Apart from a promotional video clip, I had never heard Alison Burns before, but you know very well that anyone working with Martin is going to be good.


This gig had something of ‘The Show Must Go On’ about it, since Alison was afflicted by flu symptoms, and needed all her expertise as a vocal coach to sing at all.

While I look forward to hearing her in disease-free mode, there's something about gigs where people are having to try extra hard to get the music they love across to their audience.

The audience had come to hear a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald (in what would have been her centennial year) and Joe Pass who, I think, devoted more of his time to solo performance towards the end of his career, as has Martin Taylor, together with working in small groups, like a duo with another guitarist or, as in this case, a singer.


What I enjoyed most about this gig is that Martin and Alison delivered the well known repertoire in a spontaneous, apparently unarranged way.


Martin was changing the chords as he went along, while Alison was singing like a jazz singer should, when some don't.

The guitar sound was like jazz electric guitar has come to be thought of - Barnie Kessel, Joe Pass, etc. But now we have the benefit of cleaner sound, with clean top end and no unpleasant bass peaks, which the Arts Centre's acoustic is very good at emphasising.


Martin did some solos, including a tribute to Alison's brother Robert, a corporal who died in the Falklands War. Martin's piece contained quotes from Keep The Home Fires Burning, and It's A Long Way to Tipperary, which could have been corny, but was in fact moving, because of its obvious sincerity.


I wish them luck with their continuing tour, and thanks again to Steve, Chris and the team for another great gig, with Smith/Kellock on the immediate horizon.