Sunday, 28 July 2013

Gig Review - Shelley Segal and Adam Levy

Shelley Segal and Adam Levy
Live @ Bennetts Lane, Melbourne (26/07/2013)
Words and art by Lou Endicott


I had the immense pleasure of attending Bennett’s Lane Jazz club on Friday night to see emerging artist Shelley Segal. Segal was accompanied by LA jazz guitarist and songwriter Adam Levy to play their duo album “Little March”. Levy’s bio has seen him working with some top notch songstresses in the past including Tracy Chapman, Norah Jones and Ani diFranco. And now as this album hits the streets, it’s Shelley’s turn. The album was recorded in just over a week in December last year in New York. It’s filled with little jazzy gems and soulful stories. It also was joy to see live.

 Accompanying the duo was the talented double bass player Jonathan Zion and drummer Tony Floyd. This quartet admitted freely that this was the first time that they had all played live together. I love seeing an experiment like this executed in front of a live audience. And this foursome created an engaging and dynamic energy immediately in their stage presence, their obvious respect of each other, the songs and the pure joy of playing.

The set list followed closely to the running of the album itself with the opener “Glad You Asked” - a cowboy-esque country song with simple percussion and sweet harmonies. Next up was my favourite of the record: the sultry, sweet and heart achingly sentimental “Stuck in the Memory of You”. This number gave Adam his first guitar solo which the audience lapped up and rewarded with an appreciative applause. It was here that we first saw Shelley play guitar with delicious jazz sensitivity as she danced over the melody effortlessly with her vocals. Simple but spot on.  


I don’t know what it is about certain jazz sounds, but when I hear those oh-so-good licks, lyrics and hooks that feel like you want to swing your hips and pump your shoulders, my nose scrunches right up. I get this (very unflattering) wrinkle across my nose and my eyes squint like I’m short sighted. This could be why jazz clubs favour dark lighting. There was a whole lot of nose scrunching during the sexy “Wiggle Room”. And I wasn’t the only one. Jazz. Good for the soul. Bad for wrinkles.

We had a gear shift from here as Adam played one of his originals. This was accompanied by a killer bass solo by the talented Jonathan Zion (who moved over the bass with fingers like a dexterous spider as his wild mop of hair moved in time with Floyds drumming). From here we moved to the story song “The Slipper Room”. A wonderful little tale about a much loved club that closed down. 

Segal then had the chance to let her vocals let loose with the rhythmic track “The Forbidden”. Perhaps this song was a warm up for the next song which I think really showcased just how versatile Segal is as a vocalist. “My Word” left the audience breathless with her perfect pitch vamped up scat section. I heard an audience member behind make comparisons to Ella Fitzgerald. And they weren’t far from the truth here. The set ended with a cover of Ray Charles “You Don’t Know Me” handled with respect yet an emotional rawness in Segal’s delivery. 

 The second set saw a mix of originals and covers. A highlight of this set was the Norah Jones cover “Don’t Know Why” which reminded the audience of the calibre of musician that Levy is. The magic Levy created when combined with Segal’s soft soulful vocals lulled us all into one big warm fuzzy. Looking around the room there was a smile on almost every face. Other covers included feel good standards such as “Sunny Side of the Street” and “My Baby Just Cares for me”. The audience also got to participate with a call and response moment in “I got my joy” led by Levy. After this song both Zion and Floyd left the stage for the final number.


The finale of this night was the beautiful title track of the album “Little March”. This song in itself is a beautiful and haunting song inspired by Romanian folklore and ritual. But what was really special about this song played live was that Segal invited her father Danny onto the stage to play fiddle to accompany the piece. A beautiful way to end a delightful evening.

All in all I must say I look forward to hearing more of Shelley Segal in the future. And I must write a note to wear more moisturiser at night to combat wrinkles as I’m sure there will be a lot more nose scrunching in the future when listening to Shelley make that delicious jazz sound. 

*Side note: There was a strict no photography sign sitting right above my table so instead of photography I scrawled some doodles of the artists. This was hard to do as I squinted with my nose all scrunched up most of the way through these drawings. But you get the idea.  

**Another side note/A Hair Review: Jonathan's hair was the uncredited supporting star of the evening. I was immediately reminded of The Muppet Show and their penchance for making music that starts with passion, a good hook, a lot of skill and a hell of a lot of flowing tresses. I think Dr Teeth and the Electric Mayhem Band may have found their missing member in Mr Zion. It's no wonder the smile on Zion's face was shining like a beacon all night. With hair like his and killer double bass skills to match he is a shoe in for the next Muppet movie.


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